Good Morning, an interview with Elissa
Elissa and I met up on December 31st. It was one of those days where I wanted to cancel all plans, hide under the covers and cry (relationships, huh?). But I knew better and this sweet lady and I had been trying to meet up for weeks. I knew it would be a soul-nourishing time and I was excited because I had a feeling we were going to really like one another. I was right. Speaking for myself anyway.
I texted her with a forewarning that I was a bit of a basket case. She replied saying that she had been a basket case for the last three weeks. Well, I thought, two basket cases are definitely better than one.
Symbolically, it was the last day of the year which naturally stirs about much reflection and thought. But it was also the first day of a friendship and one that reminded me of how powerful female camaraderie and companionship is. We had tea and walked around the city for what felt like a few hours. We discussed love, men, relationships, sexuality, family, self care, alternative healing, art… it was easy to be open and we shared many similar life experiences. We’re never really alone in our experiences anyway, are we? Despite it sometimes feeling as though we are. This is the human condition that we all share.
What I loved about Elissa wasn’t the fact that she gave me one of her gloves when I realized I forgot mine. And it wasn’t when she gave her favourite muffin to a homeless gentleman either. It was her spirit and how she simply showed up in the world. With presence, with a smile, with an air of magic. Sometimes people strike us. Sometimes we don’t even need to meet them in person before they strike us. This happens to me often with women who carry themselves bravely in their femininity, power and vulnerability.
Elissa is a talented human, woman, musician, friend. You can listen to some of her beautiful music here and you can read her thoughtful interview below.
Who are you right now?
Professionally I’m a Musician and Model/Actor. As a human I identify as a lot of things- an artist, a sister/daughter, a friend, those things make up who I am
What is your favourite quality in yourself?
I do well in new environments and love adventure. I do well in crisis situations. I find it easy to love people and care a lot about the happiness of others.
Do you have any morning rituals? What’s the first thing you do when you rise?
I lie still and become aware of what I am feeling. I breathe deep and sit in the feeling so I don’t try to suppress or ignore it. I drink a giant glass of water with lemon in it.
Does the quality of your morning set the tone for the rest of your day?
Yes, often. I used to always check my emails or texts first and ignored that moment where I am coming back into awareness. Now I take a minute and think about my day and how I’m doing first. My focus is what dictates what I’ll be looking for and noticing in my day. It’s a foundation for what comes next.
What are you reading right now?
Purity by Jonathan Franzen, The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook and Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I like having three books to rotate between: a fiction, non fiction, and a poetry or art book.
Let’s talk food. What does a typical breakfast look like?
Definitely protein of some sort -eggs, fish, or sometimes a granola with lots of nuts. Usually a smoothie with frozen banana, raspberries, pineapple, kale, something like that. Hot water with lemon if I’m working from home.
Quality of food is so important but so is quality of mind. How do you feed your mind?
A book I’m reading, Women Who Run With the Wolves, talks a lot about women and culture and how we shut off the channel to our intuitive selves. How we contain all this beauty, strength and fearlessness that we’re made to believe is somehow bad or too sexual. So I’ve been getting back in touch with that intuitive self and it’s really freeing. It’s also made me more open to all these beautiful female friendships. It’s so nice not to try to compete with other women, but to build community and empowerment that way. Community is important.
Describe your relationship to food. Do your emotions affect what or how you eat?
I love eating and delight in it. When I first moved out on my own, I’d always eat a lot of something bad for me when I had a hard day. I felt like I couldn’t control what I ate and found it hard to understand how to find balance. For me, modeling was a healthy shift for me (partly because I was already an adult when I started working)- I promised myself never to focus on getting skinny, but rather on getting healthy. So I’ve found healthy ways of indulging. I have to eat things that make me feel happy- I tried a raw diet in Tokyo during fashion week and I couldn’t run because I got dizzy. I love running. So I stopped- it wasn’t good for me and I didn’t feel powerful. Now if I have a rough week, I let myself get beautiful colourful vegetables and fresh fish and my favourite olives and make something delicious that makes me stronger and gives me good energy.
You make beautiful music! What does it feel like when you’re making it? What does it feel like when you’re on stage sharing it?
Well thank you! It feels like my favourite thing in the world. When I write music (more at the conception stage rather than editing a song) it is a bit like being drunk or falling in love- I forget I exist and it’s bliss. When I play live, the best shows are when I can get to that place but with other people watching. I’m always working on that.
A lot of us go to school for one thing and end up taking a different direction once we realize what we’re passionate about. When did you decide to pursue music with your whole heart?
I always knew it was what I wanted and that I had to fully invest in it. When I was 10 I sent tapes to radio stations with press packages made with scotch tape. I went to Ryerson University for Journalism but I chose the school because I knew I could record and play shows there. But in general I’d say people should just sit down, write down what they value and what makes them happy- rather than thinking so much about the “right” career. So many people have windy paths that take them to the place they feel fulfilled.
How do you take care of your mind, body and spirit?
I love running, and find that takes care of all three sometimes. Meditation, breathing, being around people who make me laugh. I was marathon training this summer but got a fracture in my ankle and had to stop for a while. Then I did yoga and found it so healing. I’m so competitive and it doesn’t let me compete and introduced me to meditation and this fun thing called breathing.
What goes on in your head? How do you deal with the inner critic and what advice can you give on getting out of your head and into your body?
I guess like we all do- day to day. Similarly, to food giving you energy, the things you read and meditate on shape how you’ll assess your own worth or where you focus is. Working in the fashion industry is interesting that way because you see yourself on a billboard and you look like an ideal woman. But in reality you battle insecurities and have acne and your upper thighs touch because on you it’s just your natural healthy shape. So that was a major reality check, realizing the ideal doesn’t exist. One time a therapist told me to stand naked in a mirror and look at myself without any judgment. If that’s hard for you to do, you need to do it every day.
Do you take time to consciously unplug from social media? If so how.
I am honestly constantly thinking about this. I value social media but I hate feeling tied to my phone. I hate that pressure to constantly respond and update. I always spend a few hours without my phone a day. Usually one hour is at the gym and the other is when I do groceries or errands and I consciously leave my phone at home. One habit I’m going to work on getting back to is never using my phone in bed- I sleep better and don’t feed myself mindless numbing information.
What is the best piece of advice you can give someone working the night shift on their dreams?
Habits. First write down what you want without worrying how crazy it sounds. Then find a tiny habit, as little as 10 minutes practicing guitar every day, and do it. Then once its a legit habit (you do it for a month), make it longer. Then add another thing like playing one live show a month. Also take risks- to even have the privilege of thinking about something like “living my dream” exists because I have enough to eat and clothes to wear. The risk probably isn’t as dire as you assume. That is, if you love your dream enough to jump.
Describe mornings with one word.
Launch (because I’m taking off but also because I’m already thinking about lunch) 🙂