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AOA S4 E6: Rattled to My Core: Season Five

Hello and welcome to a podcast about creating experimental art in trauma-informed and sustainable ways that support artists, our communities, and the organization as a whole. You're listening to Any Other Anythings. And in this season, we are focused on the journey of Grey Box Collective, and we will take you through from the very beginning, before Grey Box Collective even existed, and all the way through to present day, and talk about what the future of Grey Box Collective might include as well. Highly recommend listening to this season in chronological order since it is somewhat building upon each part of it, but it's up to you if you want to take a nonlinear approach. Appreciate that. Respect that, and hope you enjoy this journey of Grey Box Collective.

All right. Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of Any Other Anythings. I am your host Molly. I am the Founder and Creative Producer of Grey Box Collective, and we have reached season five - our COVID season, our pandemic season. And I have titled this in my notes, or more just, I guess as a phrase saying ‘season five rattled me to my core’. And it feels a little dramatic to say that at the same time, like, I don't know. I, I, this phrase kind of popped up and out naturally as I was thinking about this podcast series and all of this. So yeah, also, I just wanna say like, it's like a dark and stormy night here. It's cold, it's windy, there's rain, all like, kind of bizarre things to be happening in the desert at this time. So, I don't know, it also just feels like the environment is kind of echoing how I felt about this season. I will also say I love cold, rainy, windy weather. Like I love a good storm. So, yeah. I guess do with that what you will.

So starting with like the what that went on for season five. Which I kind of got into a bit in the previous episode talking about what Summer 2020 brought. And yeah. There was something about season five - going into it I think on a really intuitive level I had a feeling it was gonna be a rough stretch for myself. And, like spoiler, it was. Yeah, I don't know. I just had a feeling that I was not gonna be in a space to be creative or produce anything like personal - like lead, I guess is a way to say that. But we still had this grant that, you know, was the one that we've had all along from Tempe Arts. And, we were luckily - I mean, all of the granting organizations that have supported us over this really bizarre period of being an arts organization -  I mean it's bizarre for everyone, but specifically those serving arts organizations have been incredibly flexible with, with just knowing that like, yeah, life got really freaking weird. And so we all had to adapt as best we could, however we could. 

So, thankfully we were able to adapt. We shifted to being fully online. We did not do any more of the Zoom kind of - I don't know, I guess it was a little, I guess that was like a summer 2020 thing - we didn't do any more live Zoom events and we moved to all the postcard performances. And so there was just a general call out basically, I think this is how it went down. I should know I lived it, but, there was a general call that went out that was asking for creatives, like, “do you wanna be a part of this season?” And from there, created these teams, basically. And each team was tasked with creating a film for this postcard series. And that was kind of it. It was pretty open-ended, like it still needed to be tied to the values and the mission and vision of Grey Box Collective, but it was really like loose. I went extremely, it's weird. I act - I think I went like somehow I went very hands off, and also I feel like I micromanaged a little bit in this season too. So, I'm not sure how I did both, but hey, we can hold multiple truths here. There's also a fair amount of the online resources that we had. We had our devising crumbs, so all those like creative prompts. We had the resourcing deck, which is, ways to help us feel centered, grounded, and calm. We had our coloring book, we had workshops, doing a lot of work around Trauma-Informed Creative Practices. We also had some workshops for the youth educational program that we were doing. So, Sarah and Chris had continued that through COVID or through the start of COVID, so we had that going on too.


So yeah, we were hanging out in Zoom rooms a lot and like that's kind of it in terms of like the what. And I think it was in and I've used the, the like being in your chrysalis, being in your cocoon. Yeah, being in your chrysalis and being in your cocoon metaphor in previous episodes. But like, man, I like, I bundled myself real tightly in that cocoon. Season five, there's a lot that I was working with personally. Like even if you take COVID away, over the past few years and all that, it's involved, like, it's been a really challenging period of my life. There's just a lot going on personally and professionally I should also say, 'cause at this time, season five, I was still an adjunct professor. At this point I wasn't really teaching in the fitness world anymore. I was furloughed twice, as a fitness instructor. And that coming back, like, not all of my classes, not all the places that I worked, not all the facilities that I worked, came back to having full class schedules. So, I lost most of my teaching, in the fitness industry at this time I, which provided about a third of my income. So I was scrambling to pick up other classes to teach as an adjunct professor teaching online the whole time. I was on a health journey at this point too, and so I was not teaching live. I was teaching online, which if you've ever taught dance, I was doing it in my living room, like dodging the cat - Like it was, it was a lot like, no wonder, again, in hindsight, right? My body really took a beating that, that year of teaching those two semesters well, three semesters of teaching online. And I'll also say like, you know, my relationship to time really changed and my relationship to work really changed because of that too.

And I was also able to pick up more classes because I didn't have to worry about commuting to five different campuses. I didn't have to worry about balancing a fitness instructor schedule with an academic schedule, so I was able to be teaching a lot more. And I just, I don't know. There's something about going into this fall 2020 - I felt like there's no way I'm gonna be able to be creative. And I don't know if it was, I felt that wasn't the right capacity for me to show up in if I just wanted to focus on like really concrete things in the world, like marketing or social media or website stuff, right? Like versus the kind of organic, unfolding that can happen with, with a creative process. But yeah, I really pulled myself back into the behind the scenes and I also took on most of the roles that had been shared out. The shared labor of marketing, the shared labor of social media, the shared labor of producing that had slowly been shared out in previous seasons - I took all of that back. I did have some assistance with behind-the-scenes stuff, and some special projects, but for the most part, like I really buried myself behind the scenes. 

And I think in my notes where I say like, season five rattled me to my core, I put in parentheses ‘shrinking’. I just yeah there's something about this season, and maybe it was my response to COVID, like, just wanting to hide, wanting to completely retract, completely. What's the word I'm looking for? It starts with an r, I don't know, recede, right? Like all these things of just folding in on myself, and I think I had folded in, I'm gonna keep going with this just for this next point. I think I had folded in on myself so tightly that even attempting to ask for help was a struggle - I didn't really know how to at that point, right? So, wrapped up tightly in my own whatever was going - all that was going on - but probably some like undercurrent stuff that I wouldn't have been able to name then, and I'm gonna choose not to name now. I folded in so tightly like that ability to even communicate what I needed, or the support that would've been actually helpful, was really challenging, and some of that is connected to my neurodivergence around like verbal processing and expression and even, I think memory to a point. But as a result of not being able to communicate what needed to be done and not being able to ask for help in the ways that I needed it. I ended up saying yes to like anything anyone would offer, which actually resulted in me being spread way too thin. You know, if someone's like, “hey, there's this opportunity”, “there's this grant”, “what if we work on this?” I'd be like, yes, let's do that. So then my hours started to be pulled in all these different directions, which - it's like that weird paralysis thing where it's like, ‘oh my god, I have so much to do, I'm just gonna sit down’, right? Like you get pulled in so many different directions with so much energy that you just kind of plunk yourself in the middle of it, that's what was happening. 

And I think that idea of like going really deep behind the scenes, and taking on way too much, it's almost like I plunked myself down and maybe like quicksand or something, right? Like it was just sucking me in and there is also something I think with that saying yes to anything, like it was a weird time, right? Weird is not the right word - it was a like fucking bizarre time, to like, do you remember the first 12 months of COVID? Or even like - this would've been the first six months, yeah, first like six to eight months of COVID. Like, it was really bizarre, and I think coming or moving through that bizarreness was like a, a subtle panic of like, ‘well, I don't know what to do’, so you're like, yeah, let's try that. And so it just felt like throwing spaghetti at the walls to see what would stick, and I think it's an excellent practice to do that when it's like time bound, but it's like a horrible approach to surviving as a company.

And throughout this season I, I was aware and also like what was going on in my professional life - I was aware that like, it was time for things to really change in my life. I'll also name that I moved from Tempe to Phoenix at this time, and I just, there's this story. I had a student once upon a time who was a non-traditional student. Her kids had grown up and she was going through a divorce and she was taking my Yoga/Pilates class that I was teaching at ASU at the time. And I remember her writing about being really intentional that she moved to Phoenix to start her life over because of the phoenix rising from the ashes. And there is something for me - and I thought about that story several times - and her choices around it several times when I moved to Phoenix, which was also not intentional, I was not planning to relocate. Not that it was that far, but, you know, moving in the middle of COVID when life was really topsy-turvy was like, why add one more thing? But, due to what was going on with my living space, like that was the only choice. So I thought about that when moving to Phoenix, and really as I look back on this season I think this is also the first season where I really felt like a spiritual connection. Like things were just starting, it was like as soon as I moved to Phoenix and a few other events that happened - it just felt like the collaboration to make Grey Box Collective work was not just happening in this world. 

And I'm, I'm, a reminder that I am going to be intentionally vague at times because this is not just my story. These are lots of people who have been a part of Grey Box Collective. So there are other factors, that I just felt like, I don't know, there is a… as much as I say this season rattled me to my core. There is also like this ease that was happening, where it felt like being in conversation with the universe or being in conversation with realms beyond the one that we're existing within. And I don't know, just there's a lot of juxtaposition that started to show up in this, this season in 2020. And I'm sure it was always there. I'm sure in some ways it will always be there, right? The joys, the pitfalls of dynamic lives, like of being a human. There we go. Not just like dynamic lives - being a human period.

So, in season five I had a conversation with someone in a different collaboration that I was doing outside of Grey Box Collective, and they were commenting about the amount of work that I produced. It apparently had come up in some other conversation that this person had with other people in the community who were also witnessing the amount that was being produced from Grey Box Collective - maybe more my work or - yeah. And in the moment it kind of felt like a compliment, you know? Like right. Like finally being seen, like, ‘yes, I do, I do all of that’ and because I was failing to ask for help or slash also trying to be a badass who can do it all myself. It was, it felt really validating, right? And I think there was something about that conversation that helped me realize to start asking for help. Because I was doing a lot professionally, and I was getting a lot done and, in terms of like, I did the producer side of these postcards - I wasn't doing the creative side of the postcards - but yeah, I was able to get a lot done, but like personally, I was crumbling at this time. And it's interesting to, to like go through these and be like, oh, this kind of foreshadowed this other thing. And yeah, that crumbling was going on and I think the crumbling had actually been going on for a while, but I was maybe more honest about it… Maybe. Maybe. But I think that's, it's also, there's something about that year, that season, and maybe that was some of my like really taking on too much or just taking on, somewhat consciously taking on too much. It allowed me to really figure out how I work, and there are times when I can really dive into work. 

Like the, the past few weeks, my brain has set me up for success. I think there's something about, I think I mentioned like this is being recorded during like the holiday season. I am someone who, like, I don't really participate in holidays anymore - and I know this is not true for many people - but the holidays become this really quiet time for me. And once upon a time that was like necessary. It was, you know, the merry-go-round of academia and having two weeks and that, like that was it to survive, to recover from one semester and to get ready for the other. So really it was like you get three days 'cause you also had some time grading and you also had to do all your prep work. So, you know, like, I used to crash and burn during this period, and once I left academia, I found now that this period becomes really quiet for me, which also allows me to just dive into projects, and when I dive in like I can produce, I can hyper focus in such a really wonderful way. Like give me, right like that like, I feel like there are memes out there about, my modes are either, you know, ‘that project that should take 40 hours, I can do it in a day’ or ‘that email that I can send that should only take five minutes, I'm gonna need a week for that’. Like, it's just that kind of work, right? And yeah, I think there's something about season five and just how I took on that admin work that allowed me to kind of figure out what did and didn't work. 

Anyway, so this person happened to bring up what they were witnessing on the outside. Which I think also goes into understanding my own rhythms throughout a year, and also taking some time to kinda witness what the rhythms of Grey Box Collective have been, and a lot of these rhythms are determined by granting organizations, so they are imposed rhythms. They are not rhythms that have organically emerged out of the company and I think season five, six, and seven, I really felt that, that imposed timeline. And I brought this up in the last episode, I think, and I, I'll echo it again. That I have always wanted more things to happen in the fall for Grey Box Collective and they just really haven't even pre-COVID, right? And some of this was because, well, and I think there's something about like the Phoenix area, the rhythm of, and this can totally come from our days in school together, right? Of like, March and April are just saturated out here - absolutely saturated with work being produced out here. And my hope was at some point like, oh, we're like really kinda like counterculture and part of that's gonna be that we produce more stuff in the fall or we produce evenly over the course of a season. But then, I don't know, the looming deadline of like, you have to spend the grant money or you don't get to have it, right? You have to give it back or I don't know what it was like, the pressure of finishing things, have resulted in more things happening in the spring. And yeah. I think there is something about, I think season five was also kind of working against that natural rhythm because there was a desire to evenly, you know, space out all these projects so that it wasn't a ridiculous amount of postcards being shared late in the season. And yeah, you know, fall is a time - fall and the winter months is a time of like going into hibernation and going into like gathering things. I think about like gathering all your acorns. Gosh, this is a tangent. I just remembered what I actually was going to start talking about and then I went on a tangent. Wow. Thank you for joining me for this journey. Cool. Like the gathering of acorns, and I think for me that's kind of part of the rhythm. There's so much work behind the scenes, all of the prep, all the gathering of the acorns so that we know that we can kind of coast through the winter months when it is that time for hibernation or it is that time for quiet it is that time for going inward. And I was thinking, there was the post that started this whole thing about like being conditioned to be in that perpetual state of spring. Meaning we're always blooming, always growing, always. I think about spring is like showing off a little bit and for me that's like unlocked a lot of why we might be outwardly producing a lot in more March and April. And I'm not, when I say spring, also just like, I'm thinking of the spring equinox so like mid-March-ish. But before that it might, you know, on the outside, yeah - it might seem like a lot outta nowhere - but before that we're just really leaning into that kind of fall and winter vibe where it's reflection and restoration and preparation, right? Like the rhythms, I've been all about rhythms lately. You know, there is that period of preparation, there is that period that's much more inward, and a turning over of things. 

And so I think it makes sense that suddenly comes spring, there's like all this shit going on and when I try to do more stuff in the fall, it has always felt really effortful. And I think there is something about that first season of COVID or that first COVID response season that allowed the rhythm to change, right? We didn't have rhythms. Everything had been disrupted, and it allowed some more natural rhythms to emerge, as opposed to always feeling really confined to a, a particular rhythm of a season. 

And I think I had mentioned that leading up to this season, I had felt a lot of pressure to, you know, be that traditional company and have a whole season laid out and, you know, that's what would make me a “good Founder”. Or I think at that point I was actually using the phrase, Founding Artistic Director, right? That's what would make me good - if I had everything planned out and it was always producing and it was a lot of work, a lot of programming, right? Like doing more with less, all of that. And because of the disruption that came and that rattling to my core that came, really that shrinking, that turning inward and folding up on myself, all of that helped to kind of make way for a natural structure, rhythm, cadence to emerge.

I guess I'll, I'll share two more thoughts with regards to kind of lessons or experiences or don't know responses to what season five brought. And one is about the postcard series, and really shifting our attention to who the organization was to serve. And then the other one's around creativity and the shifts in kinds of creativity. 'Cause I haven't really talked about the artistic journey much in these last few seasons. Have I?

In response to COVID, we kind of let go of the general audience that we served, no offense, y'all. The focus became about serving artists which, serving creatives, serving artists has always been one of the audiences that we think about. But this time it was really pouring all of our attention and focus into serving artists - creating a space, a platform, connections, communities, like many teams, literally creative teams, across the U.S and up to Canada, to provide a space where creativity could still be happening to provide an outlet, and that, that felt really important during that time. And based on the feedback I received, based on the post-mortem conversations, it, it was really important to hold this space and so I am, I'm very, I'm quite happy that is part of the outcome of that initial response. And I think in many ways that has laid the foundation for the Play in the Grey Series that we're doing now on our Patreon page that I guess is kind of like laying groundwork for more of a training platform. Training program for artists, to yeah, to pour into themselves and really have a transformational experience. 

And the other thing I think I really began to witness in myself as well as, that like local to global scale, right? Of what did creativity look like during this time for me? What did it look like for others? I don't think I was creative at all during this time or - here we go. So I think this is where this idea of what is like embodied creativity versus creativity around expression versus creativity around, you know, innovation out of pure survival, right? Like the idea for the postcard performances. I don't think there's any way we would've arrived at that idea of a project if it wasn't for COVID, if it wasn't for asking what is happening and how can we bring novelty in our own way to what's happening in the world, right? And so because of what was happening in the world, that is our way to work with that. That's where it came from, right? So like if that wasn't happening in the world, that project would not have happened. That idea would not have come up, right? So, I think there was so much creativity for survival. I think there's a lot of creativity - I know in my own life- creativity for mental health purposes of like, just like it was good for us. Like I, maybe this was, was this, when I was, no I think it was the following year I started making earrings again, or sorry, working with polymer clay again and made earrings. And I must have made at least, oh my goodness, probably five or six-hundred earrings, pairs of earrings, right? Like that was just all I could do, and I think that was the creativity out of survival out of like this is what's bringing me my sanity on a very human level. And I want to honor that, that's a, that's a process, that's an important thing to have exist and I'm also hoping that we can have that be a way that creativity exists, that there can also be a return to creativity from expression. I think, I don't know - I'm probably speaking for myself at this point - of like getting stuck in that creativity out of survival. What if we can only be creative when we're in a space of survival, right? And I think about like how I really, prior - like season five changed this - but like I did well in chaos and I did well with like a lot going on. So, I would set myself up so there was like chaos and a lot happening because that's where I felt I could be creative. And I think in hindsight that creativity is coming from a space of survival. So what happens as we in these next few seasons, work out of survival and like what kind of creativity can happen there? So yeah.

That was one of the seasons I was nervous to talk about just because I, right? I told you it rattled me to my core. It shook shit up for me, but the beautiful thing about having, having your shit shook up is, you know, it creates new pathways. It creates new opportunities, it disrupts patterns and I think I was at a point in my life that I needed my life disrupted, and I do not wish to do it again. But if it hadn't happened, it would be a very different conversation right now. 

So yeah. I hope that you found some points validating, thought-provoking. I hope some resonated with you. I hope there was maybe a, a balance of comfort and challenge with this. And to check out for this episode how you doing, dear listener, and what are you thinking about? Thank you very much for your time and energy. I greatly appreciate it. Take care of yourselves and each other. Until next time.

Hey listener, thanks so much for listening to another episode of Any Other Anythings. Be sure to check out the show notes for links mentioned in the show as well as how to stay connected and learn more about Grey Box Collective. Thanks so much for your time and energy. Please take care of yourselves and each other.

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