Hello. This is the fifth installment of Dispatches from Chrysalis, an honest offering from me to you in the form of a newsletter. My name is Priya Florence Dadlani and I am an NYC-based cultural worker. I was born and raised in Silver Spring, MD to parents each of their own unique double diaspora. In 2018, I founded SPICY, a collective led by and for queer people of color utilizing the transformative power of art to change the world. I am also a member of the Jahajee Sisters grassroots action team, working to end gender-based violence in Caribbean communities. I work with both Media Sutra and Third Wave Fund.
As I build a digital community in different, more intimate corners of the internet, I’ll pop up in your inbox every now and then with Dispatches from Chrysalis - the liminal space I often find myself, constantly on the edge of becoming. I’ll also be including journal prompts in my newsletters so we can process various topics together from wherever. I feel like it’s important to say that these newsletters are for me to work through the chaos of my life as much as they are for y’all. I’m no expert, no genius, and I don’t have it all figured out. I’m simply trying — trying to heal, trying to find my way, trying to find the words. And I’m infinitely grateful you’ve agreed to be a part of this process.
“The strangest thought came to me on this morning / As I awoke to greet the coming dawn / The sun was hardly peaking through the garden / It felt that with everything I was one / Then I wished that I could come back as a flower / How I wished that I could come back as a flower / To spread the sweetness of love.” ― Stevie Wonder, Come Back As a Flower
In my last dispatch, sent six months ago, I said something along the lines of, “It feels like a lifetime since I’ve sent one of these.” Well, if that felt like a lifetime, then this feels like 80 lifetimes, plus a dimensional shift and a reworking of my life’s foundation as I knew it. It’s that liminal week right before New Years where everything feels unfinished, confused, and shaky. I’m just here, trying after six months to once again feel my voice and yank it out so I don’t have to live alone with all that’s swimming in me. The same struggle I had back in January of this year when I started this newsletter.
But this time, I’m kind of sick of writing. Kind of annoyed with the fact that I have to think thoughtfully and craft sentences that describe things I don’t even understand.
Instead I want to go to the park one day at like 4 am and just scream. I want one of whatever Alice is drinking so I could shrink down to the size of an insect and just sit on top of a flower. I want to wave a wand and make everyone forget me. I want to light the clouds on fire and I want the sun to set forever, never passing the horizon. I want to cook in its heat and I never want to stare at the sad moon again. I want to trust fall through the grass, straight into the core of the earth. I want to go back in time and gently cup my grandmother’s face and tell her all about me, all the things I never shared. I want to never just nod and smile again. I want to stop stretching myself so much it pulls and pains me. I want to stop trying to be the best person for others and I just want to sit still and pout and be loved just like that. I want to go back to all those times I held my tongue to keep the peace and just cuss everybody out instead. I want to make a scene and embarrass whoever came with me. I don’t want to find the words this time. I’d be okay if they were forever lost. Swimming in me.
Maybe I don’t have to pull them out…
But, like I said, I want to. And I’m trying so hard to. But, I’m also realizing that this whole time I’ve been trying so hard to do the right thing that I’ve almost forgotten how to stand guard at my own gates and protect myself. I’ve been obsessed with the fear of being abandoned, as if I haven’t been abandoned before, and before that time, and before that time…
I would like to formally acknowledge the fact that this has been a shitty year.
And I’m struggling with the totality of that, because while this year has been excruciatingly painful for me and many others, I’ve also been able to experience some very high highs with the people I love. Some of the most magical and fantastical days of my life happened this year and I can’t even begin to describe how grateful I am for those moments.
I became a woodland elf and went to the Renaissance Faire. I spent a week in Croatia with a friend who gave me a cake for my birthday that said “YOU ARE SO LOVED PRIYA.” My brother got MARRIED! Someone who I thought I’d never kiss again told me they think about me every 15 minutes. Two of my flyest friends finessed their way into Lucien and saved me a seat. I am finally no longer exclusively dating men. I found the therapist I’ve always been looking for. I facilitated a Sexual Assault Speak-Out. I cried basically every day, I even wailed a few times. I sent hundreds of voice notes to my friends. We talked about desires and heartbreaks, fantasies and obsessions, our breakthroughs and our meals from that day. We pulled tarot cards and reshuffled them and pulled them again until our spirit guides gave us a crumb of hope. I shared my survivor story with my mother. I cooked my teenage cousin and his friends a big pot of curry chicken. I got two new jobs and I don’t have to pretend at either one. I was so heartbroken this summer it actually morphed into unbridled, uninhibited joy. I learned to lie to myself in order to numb the pain.
I learned that God, or the universe, but probably my grandmother gifted me a reserve of resilience deep down in me that only gets unlocked when I’m at my lowest. At that point, it bursts and rushes over me, allowing every particle of my being to simply keep going until it feels okay, because we have no other option.
I let go of the great love in my life and it returned to me from every direction, filling every corner. Leaving flowers in my kitchen and lasagna in my fridge.
My grandmother I keep mentioning transitioned from her physical form on November 11th. She now resides everywhere, in everything, and visits my mother in the form of an egret. Her name was/is Sarojini Janki Ford. We call her Roji because when we used to drive to her house as children, we wanted to go to Roy Rogers for burgers, but instead my mom said we were going to Roy Roji’s. I made an Instagram post about her that you can read here. If you’d like to mourn with me, light a candle for her, or send a prayer — I welcome it. It is not an exaggeration to say that I think about her literally every day, multiple times a day, and I wonder if that ever ends. I’d be okay if it doesn’t.
The last of many parting gifts she gave me was the gift of being present. In the days and weeks after her death, even now, I can’t see too far into the future. I’ve retired from time travel. I don't plan too much. I’ve stopped making my daily to-do lists and overbooking my calendar. I don’t really go day by day, but I go moment by moment. This is a coping mechanism to allow for my grief to flow in and out as it pleases, but in some ways I’m happier like this. I’m also far more tender, and have far less capacity to carry other people’s heavy things. Grief stops me from making myself more palatable. It stops me from feeling bad for feeling bad. My grief allows me to stop time and just be as I am. I’m learning to believe that no matter where I am in my healing process, no matter where I am in my grieving process, no matter where I am in my self-growth process, I still deserve unconditional love. If not from anyone, from myself.
Now, this is not the dispatch about non-monogamy (trust, it’s coming) but in a short time I’ve learned so much about what it means to be in the right relationship with myself first, before anyone else. And I’m not saying you have to love yourself in order for people to love you (that’s no fun, and it’s also a colonial myth), but you have to decide that your most important relationship is the one with yourself. You are the center of your universe, and you decide those that orbit around you, how close they are, how much space is in between, and how each energy can rotate in and out. And your galaxy is not a democracy.
Despite everything I’ve faced this year, I am perhaps stupidly maintaining high hopes for 2022. I feel as if I have no other choice. I don’t have any big resolutions or goals though, just very specific, small things I would like to do. Almost like a mini bucket list. For example:
Sit outside at a restaurant and eat 12 oysters.
Read one of my poems to a group of people that includes at least one stranger.
Cook a big pot of lamb curry and feed it to my friends.
Make a collage.
Record my voice.
And so on.
But I am most hopeful for the one thing I am guaranteed. The one thing I’ll get even if everything else crashes and burns. I am so, so hopeful for time. For time to pass and wash over me like holy water. For time to wrap me up and hold me tight to its chest. For time to slow when I’m staring into your eyes, and then speed up again until we meet once more. For time to fly in and rescue me.
For time to fold in and onto itself, reuniting us once again with the ones we never really lost.
Journal Prompts As I Reflect On The Year I Lost Someone I Can’t Live Without
This week's Journal Prompts helped me feel the fullness of my year. I meditated on all the people and places that held me. I saw in fast motion all that we became, and all we are barreling towards. I hope they can give you what they gave me. As always, please pick and choose what questions feel right for you and leave the rest behind.
How did you love in 2021?
What broke your heart in 2021?
What mended it?
List three things you lost this year.
List three things you found.
What would you name the new terrain of your soul you traversed in 2021?
If you could choose three songs to score the soundtrack of your year, what would they be?
Who did you forgive in 2021?
Who forgave you?
What object did you give your inner child in 2021 and why?
What will you leave behind?
What will you move towards?
If you’re able to do the journal prompts, please let me know how it goes and do share any feedback! You can email me at email@example.com or DM me at @priya.florence.
loved this <3