If You Read One Thing Today, Read This: With Love, Cleo Wade
Artist, poet, speaker, empower-er, thought provoker. Cleo Wade is a true creator. The simple yet powerful messages she composes are little nuggets of advice filled with positivity and love, and conceived to 'provoke emotional responses' that create positive changes for all woman-kind. Between her relationship with her body, her respect for human beings everywhere, her understanding of moral obligation, and the passionate pursuit of her wildest dreams, every set of words strung together by Cleo Wade is something we want to print out, hang on our wall, and tirelessly strive to live by.
"I just try to constantly create a safe space, an open space for people to be as they are, come as they are, and achieve what they want to achieve."
I think that being from New Orleans, which is a place that's so free, and so lively, and so open, really gave me a strong foundation to pursue things that were out of the ordinary. And to talk about topics that maybe some people would be too scared to talk about. I grew up in a household where I was raised to love everyone, respect everyone, and enjoy people for their traits that aren't common. I grew up in a household that was just so firm on equality between sexes and races. For me, and my work, and what I create, I try to constantly create a safe space -- an open space for people to be as they are, come as they are, and achieve what they want to achieve.
I went to poetry summer camp when I was four. I still remember my poetry teacher...she was so cool. The first advice I ever got in writing from her was, 'Just think of something that doesn't make any sense, and keep writing about that.' She'd say things like, 'If you know every color you've ever seen a bird in, describe a bird in a color you've never seen.' I think about that all the time because the subject matter in which I write is so passionately and fiercely in pursuit of female identity, and humanity, and love, and respect, and gratitude for being on this planet. I think that I constantly take what she said, because those conversations are constantly happening, we just aren't having them in these ways that resonate with all people.
I think that when I'm writing, I'm constantly taking her advice. I think, 'What's a way that someone's never said this before? What's the way that someone could actually hear it?' Because we hear these messages all day long. The messages of what I write are not not around, but I think that a lot of the times they're in these ways that are so complex, that in a time where we probably need to simplify rather than complicate ourselves, I am constantly just trying to write something simple enough to maybe become a part of someone's life with ease.
SIMPLICITY + TRUE NATURE
Simplicity is power. I think that it's the same with ingredients in food. You want to break it down to simpler things and that's how you can empower your body. Our body does not need all these things that have been created in a lab. A lab can process that, but the body is not meant to. It's more about simplifying it than complicating it. With all of our regimens in life -- don't you try to, even when you're picking out makeup or something nowadays, you're like, 'Well, what is it that's going to make me feel more like who I am and highlight what I have rather than put all these things inside of my body, or on top of my body, that actually get me further away from my true nature...?'
I think that we live in a world where the energies are constantly shifting and changing, and as an artist, I think that it's my responsibility to be of service to the people around me -- near and far -- and whether I only feel it energetically or I get to sit in a room with three of them, I just know I'm not the artist who creates because I feel like, 'Oh I just need to get that out!' Anything I create is more about asking myself, 'What can I contribute today? How can I serve today? How can I create the energetic patterns that carry on the message that's going to help the next generation of young girls with their self esteem and their sense of relationships with other women and how they can learn to support each other better and treat themselves better?'
"How could I not do everything in my power to give thanks to my body and talk to my body in a way that makes it kind of joyous in wanting to give back to me?"
I think we're in a world where the energy is lighter, and then it's heavier, and I just kind of flow within that. So my subject matter, while as a whole may kind of stay in this loving bubble, shifts as far as whatever is going on around me.
It's really funny because I think, as women, we're the ultimate creators and manifestors. That is what our energy is, it's creative energy in every understanding of the human spirit. We're also these crazy multi-taskers. My yoga instructor told me one day, 'You know, you have to remember that as a woman, you have this built-in safety system. Because in your lifetime, you have the capacity to be able to have 20 children. So because of that, you have this understanding of how to know where all of your kids are.' So, I see it in the sense that you could treat your projects or your friendships or your relationships or your family members and everything going on in your life as one of these hypothetical children -- you know where each one is at all times.
I think there comes a point in time where you start to tap into your moral obligation to the world and your life separates into two periods. It happens for everyone at different times, for some it might happen in their, what do people call it? Their quarter life crisis? For others, it might happen in their midlife crisis, but I think that whenever or wherever it happens, there is that separation. It happened for me a few years ago, I couldn't avoid the knock on the door of my moral obligation to the world any longer. So I took a while to really understand, 'Okay, what types of things is this meant to manifest itself into?' Whether it's speaking or it's art or it's poetry or objects for the home or any ways to create these messages so that people can have them and hold them in their hands and have it be a part of their life.
I think that also, as a person, the second that you understand what you want to do in that way, you just find a way to make it work. My yoga teacher has said to me, 'You know, everyone's walking around chasing their dreams, meanwhile their dreams are chasing them.' And it's so true. Your dreams really are chasing you when you're willing to be like, 'Okay, I'm now ready to allow you!'
Chez Conversations is an arts collective, female base that consists of myself and all of my best friends (Mia Moretti, Margot, Kate Greer and Liza Voloshin), and it was really manifested as a safe space to create art -- art being anything. It's so important to create in groups, because whether it's individually or collectively, to have a group of people in your life that hold space for whatever you want to be creating to come true is kind of half the battle. To hold space for someone's daily practices to come to fruition...that's a really powerful energy.
I mean, back in these crazy prehistoric times, women weren't even allowed to be grouped together in private because they would feel like they were too powerful. And there is, absolutely (and I feel this with my entire heart) nothing more powerful than a group of women. That is really the foundation of Chez Conversations. We also use it as a template to inspire other women and young girls to collaborate and create together. The female energy is the life of this planet, and it goes way beyond the body.
"I enjoy being a work in progress because everyone's a work in progress and when we acknowledge that about ourselves, there's so much more of an open and loving communication we have with the people around us."
SELF-SERVICE FOR SELF-LOVE
My relationship with my body is really similar to my relationship with the environment. You know, I'm asking a lot of it. It's similar to when you're asking a lot of a friend -- you think about all the things you're going to do in return for them to make sure that they don't feel slighted all the time, or like you're taking advantage.
Also, I ask a lot of this planet to be a place where it's going to give me love and it's going to make my dreams come true. It's going to make me food, it's going to provide for my family and it's going to provide for all the people I care about in all these huge ways. How could I not compost and recycle and do what I can to give back to this thing that I'm asking so much of?
So with my body, it's the same way. I want it to make children. I want it to get me from place to place. I want it to keep me warm and I want it to fight for me when I'm feeling ill. How could I not do everything in my power to give thanks to my body and talk to my body in a way that makes it kind of joyous in wanting to give back to me? I think that when you look at your relationship with your body in that way, you create this synergy that gives you such an ease about what's happening.
Even when something weird is going on, like if I'm breaking out or something, I thank my body because it's like, 'Thank you for drawing attention to the fact that maybe I shouldn't be putting all that dairy in my body. Thank you for drawing attention to my coughing and sneezing or shivering. Thank you for just fighting to keep me warm when it's 20 degrees out.'
Your body is your most loyal servant that you'll ever have. You just want to give to it as much as you're asking of it.
Most of our life is unlearning what we learn. I mean listen, I am like a hick from the south. I'm was raised on fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and craw fish. So I had to really unlearn relationships with food. I think it's so important to create practices in your life that make it impossible for you to ignore the way that your body is receiving something. For example, the more disciplined I am with my work or yoga and meditation, the more I'll be like, 'Wow I actually can't sleep when I eat these things.' And I certainly can't get up in the morning and write the way I want to write if I'm hungover.
I wake up and write for three to five hours every morning no matter what. I think that the more you create practices and habits in your life that are so self serving for you to be and use your body and your mind and your spirit in all the ways you want to, the more things just naturally fall out. I mean, I still have these periods of indulgence. My mom's a chef. I'll go and eat whatever crazy thing she's cooking and I'm excited about it, but it's not a part of my practice. It's a nice exception.
ON GETTING INSPIRED
You just have to sit down and do it. I think a lot of the time, we think we need inspiration whereas if we just start getting into motion, we become our own inspiration. If I lived a life where I waited on inspiration for something, I'd probably be waiting more than I'd be writing, and that would kind of bum me out.
I do have certain rituals, like every morning when I get in the shower I thank my body. I'm like, 'I just want to thank every part of you for protecting me all day long and keeping me going.' There's some kind of connective energy between your body and water. I try to create certain rituals where I'm either thanking my body or just taking a minute to just be okay with all the parts of me. I think that helps, because when you're creating anything, you need to be feeling so wholly yourself because at the end of the day, there's nothing but content and creation in our world and it's only when you're so finely in tuned in with your point of view that it's something worth taking note of -- because it's so highly individualized.
I live a life of constant inspiration where I don't feel like, 'Oh, I need to go to this one place to get inspired.' I think it's because I have so many amazing friends in the arts and in New York in general, everything is an inspiration. Everything is just about which set of eyes you're looking at it with.
"If everything I ever create can, in some way, be of service to others, that's the only legacy I'm interested in."
A LIFE 'PRACTICE'
I don't sit here for a second pretending that stress and anxiety don't occur in my life, but I feel so thankful to have a practice to manage those energies rather than allowing them to completely embody my entire essence. Those things, they show up, but I don't let them live at my house. The reason we have a practice is because stuff comes up.
I think it's crucial for every woman to have a self care program for herself. Whether the practice is eating foods that serve her, whether it's meditating in a way that serves her, whether it's doing things with her body, or creating work that serves the whole. When I make the work I make, it's not because I'm always that person. Sometimes that's the advice I give to myself in those situations and I think that every woman should maintain a list of advice she would give to herself at all times. Because we need it.
I always feel like this work in progress, but I enjoy being a work in progress because everyone's a work in progress and when we acknowledge that about ourselves, there's so much more of an open and loving communication we have with the people around us.
I have worked really hard to not be afraid to express the vulnerability of my needs and in ways that I hope can reach other people. We're not nearly as expressed of a culture as we should be. The bare minimum of what I do is to inspire you to just want to write down anything you're feeling. Because it's so, so educational to take what's inside of you and put it in front of yourself and be able to look at it. I think we all need that type of education regularly. It's huge.