May 23rd, 2020

by Alia Wilhelm

Lately, maybe because this interlude has brought to my attention that it's something I do all too rarely, I have been thinking about the saying, "You have to sit with your feelings". I wonder what that looks like for a person, and for me specifically. Do I need a special chair? All I know for sure is that it doesn't resemble the way I've spent the past two months. My will to remain productive, and for the weeks to feel like they have some kind of shape or structure, all in the name of creating a sense of purpose and meaning, has been a far stronger impulse than the desire to sit and reflect. I know there is harm in thinking that it's what you do that is a measure of your life's worth, as opposed to who you are, but I'm not sure how to even begin undoing this idea in my mind.

A few weeks ago, I looked out of my window at the setting sun, watching the sky turn from mauve into the dark purple of an aging bruise. My eyes were outsmarting me, adjusting to the light outside as it dimmed, without my realising just how dark it was getting. I closed my eyes for a few moments and then re-opened then. Only then did I notice that the violet was receding quickly into black. In a similar sense, my body and my brain have adapted to this work-fueled way of life, where cramming the day with as many productive activities as possible is the norm. I'm lucky that this pandemic has given me the chance to close my eyes and then re-open them a few moments later, with a much truer understanding of who I am becoming and how dark it actually is. 

On weekends, I cut and paste bits of magazines into my journal and add the occasional thought to the page in large, childish handwriting. Sitting in solitude, cutting rust-coloured mountains out of old issues of National Geographic, seems at least a degree closer to sitting with my feelings. But there are times where scrapbooking feels like an extension of my work week since I make collages for a living. Then I ask myself whether this is just another method I’ve constructed to side-step my emotions, if it's productivity masquerading as catharsis. I don't know whether I would journal if I knew I couldn't share these images with others. I also don't know whether there can be truth in what I'm creating if I've made it with viewers in mind. I wish I could be more like the sky, changing colour not for people leaning out of their windows to watch the sunset, but just because it's what I do.


Alia Wilhelm is a Nearness co-founder. She works as a multimedia artist and director's assistant in London. You can follow her @aliiiiia and check out her work at www.aliawilhelm.com