These days, with so many lifestyle gurus around, it’s hard to know who to follow. Should you worship at the altar of Martha? Buy everything Goop tells you to? Submit yourself to Preserve? Hell, even Lena Dunham is starting a lifestyle newsletter. But reading a whole newsletter every week is a lot of commitment. What if you could get your life advice in just 140 characters at a time? Enter Yoko Ono.
Since 2008, Yoko has been helpfully sharing gems on Twitter like, “Make a hole. Leave it in the wind,” and, “When the curtain rises, go hide and wait until everybody leaves you. Come out and play.” Easy to digest, and downright doable. I’m a busy, on-the-go working mom, and even I have time to “polish an orange,” as she recently advised. But would following her advice lead to a better, more peaceful, artistic life?
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really “get” art, particularly modern art. I’m not bragging; I actually feel badly about it. If I ever came across someone who didn’t “get” pizza or wasn’t “into” music, I’d think they were out of their mind. So, maybe diving headfirst into the mind of an artist for a week was just what I needed.
Every day for a week, I chose two Yoko tweets that appealed to me, and carried them out to the best of my abilities. Would I emerge a changed woman, or just alienate everyone around me with my weird activities? Is this lady just a kook, or is she onto something here? I was about to find out.
Day 1: Fun With Paper
Yoko specified that I must “erase the line,” so I assumed she wanted me to use pencil. Should I use a ruler to get a perfect line? No, this is art. Art doesn’t demand perfection. I drew a pretty decent line, about four inches, I’d estimate, but I didn’t dare measure it, because that might render the exercise unartistic. It’s a nice line. I like my line.
Now, to erase it. Goodbye, line! Back into the pencil from whence you came! Now there’s nothing but a shadow of your memory on the page. And OK, now I get it. This exercise is about letting go of ego. Yes, I drew a lovely line; I put care and thought into that line. But in the end, we’re all just a collection of atoms bumping into each other on this big, blue marble, and sometimes you need to get the hell over yourself. So I didn’t hold back. I erased the line. I am at peace.
Lesson learned: Be willing to let go.
I chose to use a page from an old issue of Food and Wine magazine because I’m terrible at actually reading those and they usually just sit around in my bathroom, giving guests the vague impression that I’m fancy (which nicely juxtaposes my vast rubber duck collection). It’s been awhile since I’ve folded a paper crane, but I managed, although the body does look oddly squashed. I blame this on the flimsy paper. Once folded, the only phrases I can make out are “do freelance work” and “Coca-Cola.” Nailing it on the first one, but Coca-Cola, really? I’ve always been #TeamPepsi, if I have to pick a cola at all.
Lesson: Question everything, even yourself.
Day 2: Get Others Involved!
I entered the bathroom, turned on the extra-bright lights, and extended the telescoping magnifying mirror. I discovered that I have two light wrinkles on my forehead, and one at the outer corner of my left eye. This tells me that I’m often surprised or incredulous, and that the tinted windows in my car aren’t protecting me from UVA rays. Thanks for the lesson, Yoko!
I wrote the number three on a piece of printer paper (I hope I wasn’t supposed to use nice stationery), and mailed it to my best friend, who lives one town over. Two days later, she texted me a picture of my “letter” with a question mark beneath it. She seemed unbothered by the fact that my youthful face is crumbling before our very eyes.
Lesson: Your friends love you for what’s inside, not what’s outside. Also, moisturizer with SPF 20 is not cutting it.
I chose to listen to the heartbeat of my cat, Molly, whose heart was conveniently close to my ear when I happened across this tweet. As she dozed on the arm of the couch, I gently put my head on her side. Just as I located her heartbeat, she began to purr, and the gentle beats were drowned out by her expression of love.
Lesson: Hug your cats more often; they’ll appreciate it. And I suppose that lesson applies to whomever’s heartbeat you listen to. If someone’s willing to let you put your head on their chest, do it, and do it often. We could all use more hugs.
Day 3: Follow Your Ancestors
My 6-year-old son was watching one of those awful, third-tier Muppet movies in the living room. I snuck into his room and broke a pencil. I then presented the broken tip to him and announced, “This came out of my head.” He eyed me skeptically and deadpanned, “Are you kidding?” I told him yes. He asked what it was, and I told him it came from a pencil. “And... why?” I told him it’s for a project and thanked him for his time.
Lesson: Children are accepting. I chose this tweet because, come on, I had to; it’s ridiculous. I thought my son might laugh, or maybe show some concern. But he just shrugged it off, because he trusts that whatever I’m doing, I’m doing for good reason.
This one was pretty simple. I used a wooden match. It went out about halfway down. I ran it under the faucet and threw it away. It took me a moment to realize the the simplicity of this exercise was the lesson.
Lesson: Imagine how proud your ancestors would be if they knew how easy you have it.
Day 4: This Is Getting Difficult
I stepped out on my deck armed with a cordless drill, paper, scissors, and a lighter. I reached up high towards the sun and drilled. My next-door neighbor was enjoying a cigarette on her deck, and was much too polite to say anything.
I then cut a small circle from the paper, brought it down to the end of the driveway, and burned it. Two cars pass me as I did so.
Lesson: Never mind what the neighbors think. People tend to think of themselves as the stars of their own stories, with everyone else playing backup parts. So, of course, I felt like the whole neighborhood was watching me messing around with a drill and burning paper.
But the lady next door is the star of her story. She doesn’t care what I’m up to on my deck; she just wants to smoke a cigarette. And the people driving by are thinking about what’s for dinner or the day they had at work. Live your story the way you want, because you’re the only one who’s really watching it that closely.
This one sounds easy, until you really think about it. What does that even mean? I chose to bring this tweet to life by singing the harmonies of some of my favorite songs. Not singing along to the radio, not singing with someone else who was singing the melody. Just me. Singing the harmony parts. It was hard! Without the radio backing me, my voice kept trying to slip back into the melody. But the harmony is also usually more fun to sing, and without it, the melody would be boring as hell.
Lesson: backup singers are hard workers, and they deserve more credit. Next time you listen to your favorite song, try taking it apart in your head and listening to each component separately. Listen to just the drums, then start it over and listen to just the bass. There’s a lot going on there that you probably never even noticed.
Day 5: Watch A Movie
Once again, I enlisted my son and his arts and crafts supplies. I painted a goat and allowed it to dry. Then, I instructed him on how to copy it using our scanner, making sure not to assist him, because then it wouldn’t count. You know, like at the end of The Ring, when the mom has the little boy make a copy of the video so that he won’t die? Oh, sh*t, did I just spoil The Ring for you? I’m sorry.
Lesson: Not everyone has seen the fantastic 2002 film The Ring. Also, it’s oddly freeing to work hard on something and then give up control completely… Sort of like raising a child? Is the goat painting a metaphor for my son growing up? Is The Ring a metaphor for paintings of goats? Probably not. But still a great movie.
I decided to let the sounds choose their own order. Call it a distracted meditation. As my mind wandered, I thought of the theme from Jurassic Park, then the boy across the street dribbling a basketball, which gave way to Molly purring. Jurassic Park popped back up again, and transitioned into water dripping, which was interrupted by Ryu from “Street Fighter” yelling “Hadoken!” Then I thought of the sound of my toe knuckles cracking, followed by my washing machine’s spin cycle. Jurassic Park crept back one more time, and I quit.
Lesson: We live in such a noisy world. But who decides which noises are noise, and which are pleasant? The sound of a basketball being dribbled drives me crazy, because it used to always occur during naptime (oh, how I miss naptime), but to someone with fond memories of shooting hoops with a parent, that sound would bring a smile to their face. Also, that Jurassic Park theme sure is catchy, isn’t it?
Day 6: Get Outside
Apparently, I picked the wrong time of year for this one. The only seeds I could find at the grocery store were pumpkin seeds, which, let’s be honest, would take a lot of wind to move. But it’s been pretty windy lately, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility. And what a fun surprise that would be for my neighbors! Bonus pumpkin patch!
Lesson: Pumpkin-spiced everything season is coming soon. I dread it. You dread it. We all dread it. But it’s happening, and now, for my neighbors, it may very well happen for free! Free pumpkins for all! Thank me later!
I went out in my backyard at night and counted all the lights I could see. While I technically live in a city (we have a mayor and everything), it’s a very suburban city. I counted one streetlight and quite a few lit windows, but of the 226 lights I counted, over half were twinkly lights in my garden. It’s a very pretty garden. When I went to hang up my number, I couldn’t find the Scotch tape, so I used a thumbtack, and my husband scolded me.
Lesson: solar garden lights are a wise investment. Whereas someone else trying this experiment might be counting streetlights and McDonald’s signs, I got to count twinkly stars and color-changing dragonflies, which is pretty sweet, and I should be grateful for that. Also, buy more tape.
Day 7: Fun With Food
I chose to imagine Abraham (Arnold’s goldfish from Diff’rent Strokes) for this exercise. He took about 30 seconds to traverse the sky. Then I made a tuna melt, which I hope is okay with Yoko, as it’s the only way I take my tuna. It was good.
Lesson: It’s weird that goldfish are considered companions and tuna fish are considered food. Who decided that? Should I maybe try being a vegetarian again? Also, I’m running low on mayonnaise. Buy more mayonnaise.
After a solid week of doing weird Yoko stuff, I decided to end my experiment with the weirdest tweet I could manage. I bought some frozen peas, because that’s a little less gross than the alternative. My son watched me fill a sandwich bag with them and stuff it in my purse, and didn’t even question me. This is our new normal. We ran a few errands, and I dutifully left a pea at every location (outdoors; I’m not a terrible person). The only place I didn’t leave a pea was at my son’s karate dojo, because his instructor is a friend of mine who knew exactly what I was up to, and told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to leave a pea at his school. I think Yoko would be okay with that.
Lesson: Value friendships over peas. Yes, it was important to leave a pea everywhere in accordance with my new lifestyle, but it wasn’t more important than not annoying my friend with legume-related vandalism. When you make a lifestyle change, make sure you’re not leaving your friends out in the cold. Don’t ditch your best girl for a new guy, hire a babysitter when your childless friends want to hang, and suck it up and go to a normal restaurant once in a while if you’re vegan. Friends come first.
Did I Have A New Sense Of Calm?
And my overall impression, after a week of doing whatever a stranger on Twitter told me to? It wasn’t as bad as I thought. Some of it was pretty fun. Nobody called me out on any of the weird things I did, even when they definitely could have, and maybe should have. Living the Yoko lifestyle has taught me that it’s okay, and even fun, to be a little “weird.” If nobody was weird, think of how boring life would be. At some point on our way to becoming grownups, we stop being so playful, and I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.
Recently, before I began this experiment, my son invited me to draw with him, and I explained to him that “adults don’t really draw much.” Why not? Of course, artists do, but your average adult never colors in a coloring book, or uses sidewalk chalk, or paints pictures of goats. Why do we think of art as solely for professionals, whereas children see it as something that everyone should be doing? Maybe they’re right. It sure was a fun week.
Images: Courtesy of Jenn Rose (9); Yoko Ono/Twitter (14)