“Open cup or closed cup?” Hilary opens a phone call with these words, and I can hear her grinning. Closed cup means that, after my turn elaborating on a topic I’m working with at the moment, I don’t require any commentary or questions: I simply need a safe space to say some things out loud. Open cup means that I welcome her insights and queries; it’s an invitation that never fails to elicit raw thoughts and unformed feelings. Together, we will hold each up to the light for reflection.
I’ve confessed to Hilary that she’s my favorite processing partner, and it’s mostly due to prompts like these that invite me to try out the words of my own story.
As I mention in my welcome video, Hilary wandered into a conversation a group of Enrichment Women were having one afternoon. While we’d been bantering about dreaming, Hilary had actually been dreaming, enjoying a nap in Jaia’s hammock outside. At Hilary’s arrival, our conversation naturally evened out from casual crosstalk into the more ordered flow of circle sharing, where each person’s words were given equal time and space.
Hilary hadn’t said a word, but then she also doesn’t always have to: Hilary’s nonverbal rage is astonishing. She communicates volumes by placing a hand on your shoulder, through one wide-eyed look, by placing a pillow with a heart on it behind you on her couch, or in the twenty different meanings she wrings out of a single “OhhhhHHHHHhhhhh . . .”
The weekend I met Hilary, I watched her dance with Shakra Dance Company, ripping her costume onstage to reveal the demon of Contempt she battles with daily, then being straightjacketed and hauled offstage, still blazing. At the afterparty, she stood mostly silent, feet grounded a solid hip-width apart, clasping a mug of tea, observing the shenanigans and softly glowing.
I had approximately one frillion questions for her.
Over the duration of the Enrichment Project, I had the opportunity to ask many of these questions, learning about Hilary’s ingrained art school critic who holds her every effort in contempt, who sabotages her with a crippling perfectionism.
I also had the opportunity to watch Hilary grapple with– and succeed against– her demons. Hilary mostly dropped out of social media, finding this quelled many of her day-to-day anxieties; her one concession to the online world has been the creation of Hiljoy, her YouTube channel.
Sporting an Earthdance hoodie, Hilary digs deep in front of the camera. She processes her own raw thoughts and unformed feelings; she speaks candidly about depression and anger, anxiety and surgery. Hilary reminds us– by reminding herself– that it’s okay to not be okay.
Critically, she also explores whether and how she is capable of change.
Many years later, Hilary and Na’la rework that piece about demons to have a different ending. After ripping their costumes to reveal their anger, contempt, and shame– and instead of being straightjacketed, deemed crazy– Hilary and Na’la circle one another.
They touch the words painted on each other’s bodies. They do not recoil.
The audience, myself included, cries as they embrace.
When we can offer each other the space to process all aspects of ourselves without instantaneous judgement or polarizing condemnations . . . well, we offer the transformational kind of kindness that has the power to transmute and transcend.
Back onstage, Hilary and Na’la don shirts with sparkles, pulling veil poi in rainbows of glitter to punctuate their exuberant joy.
To every interaction, every council share, Hilary brings an incredible sense of groundedness.
It will come as no surprise to learn that Hilary practices Tai Chi, dropping deep down into her breathing to get out of her mind for a minute. You can learn more about Hilary on her Youtube channel or even take one of her Brooklyn-based Chen Tai Chi classes at True Tai Chi.
And for just a short while, you can register for one of her classes and support The Enrichment Project at the same time!