Gishwhes is – – –

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When I named this week artistry and spirituality, one of the first things that came to mind for that theme was my time with gishwhes. At first glance, gishwhes is ridiculously crazy, non stop thinking and doing and creating, but somehow in the middle of that is this low-key baseline of calm. There really is something very spiritual about being on a team and contributing to others, both in tangible ways and in encouragement. The underlying mission of gishwhes is to create art and do good.

Gishwhes is just as much random acts of crazy as it is random acts of kindness. It is all things, but it is different things to each participant, and that is one of the things that makes it so spiritual. Each year, I discover more about myself than the year before, and I grow in the good ways. I get to leave my self imposed box; my comfort zone goes on holiday while I step up and step out.

Started in 2012 by actor Misha Collins, gishwhes is a week long international scavenger hunt/competition. Teams are made up of fifteen people from all over the world. often coming together as strangers and leaving as friends, gishwhes is a way to test yourself, find yourself, and be yourself.

I’m in it for the fun. In my mind, winning is so far out of the realm of my possibility that I don’t even consider it. I plan on ten items, on spending no money, and trying not to embarrass myself too much. About halfway through the most recent hunt, seeing what my team was putting out there, I couldn’t help but think that we had a good chance of actually winning this thing. Our stuff was amazing, and I’m not just saying that because they’re my team. Our stuff was amazing. Now that the hunt is over, I still feel that we might have a chance. If not, then for next year I plan on being a little more competitive even though I can’t spend much money. I can certainly think of each item on its own, and see what I can bring to it.

This was my third year participating, but it feels as though the first two years were getting me ready for this team. I was named captain by the computer that controls the hunt, probably because it was my third year and the rest of the team were mostly first years. I did not embrace it in any way but reluctantly. I’m happy to give my advice and be an example, but I don’t like the title, or the responsibility of being the captain, being the symbolic head of the entire team.

As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. At a teammate’s encouragement, I made a captain’s hat that was goofy and spectacular. I also felt confident to throw in my two cents wherever I thought it would help.

In my previous years, we had one person submitting all of the items. This year, we each did our own items, asking for help if we needed it. This worked out very well because it gave us individual responsibility and accountability over our own items as well as giving us a new skill using the tools of gishwhes, imgur and you tube.

One of the things I liked best about this team was our cohesiveness and spirit of becoming friends who liked and respected one another. We had fun. We laughed. We were cheerleaders for each other. We formed our team five months ahead of the hunt, right before registration, and that gave us the chance to learn about each other’s lives and families. It built a foundation for a continuing camaraderie and our collaboration on choosing items and suggesting things, and cooperation was the natural next step. One month after, we continue to be friends, and are all looking forward to next year’s hunt when we will be more competitive, more prepared, and better than ever!

As I said earlier, if any one of us had a question about our items, and how to make the submission better, we brought it to the team. This was not something that we planned ahead for, but something that naturally occurred to help us choose the best photo or video to submit. We stood by each other that there was no wrong way to do any of the items, and we were great at cheerleading without correcting or criticizing. Anything we had to say was said with construction, and not to tear down anyone’s work.
We might have done things differently if we had that item, but we let it go once it was in someone else’s hands.

It was wonderful.

It was also perfectly in tune with the spirit of gishwhes as a whole.

Even my artistry took a step up, and that was mostly because I didn’t want to let my team down.
There was one item that needed two superheroes. I thought I would be Invisible Girl. Why? So I didn’t have to be in the picture. I hate being in the picture. I tried half a dozen ways to figure out how to do Invisible Girl at a dinner table with the other superhero. I tried wires, fishing line, I asked the “experts”, and by experts I mean my costuming cosplayer friends. Nothing worked for me. I decided to bite the bullet and dress as Batgirl. We had most of the costume pieces from my kids’ dress up bin, and I figured out how to manage the rest. I did it, and it came out fabulously. I was really proud of that item, but I was also proud of myself, for admitting that I needed to do something uncomfortable for the good of the team. I went out in public in costume in August. I haven’t done something like that since my SCA days. It felt good.

That was one of fourteen items that I completed.

A month and a half later, I am still proud of my work that week. I’m trying to keep it going even as gishwhes has ended for this year. Our family friend had their annual family reunion/end of summer party. The theme was pirates, and we actually were prepared and dressed up for the first time, creating pirate hats and treasure maps.

I recently joined my church’s ministries for the adult faith enrichment and the RCIA program that I came through in 2013/2014.

I’m speaking out more politically, but in a good way.

I’m putting myself out there in fandom, and not being embarrassed by it outside of fandom. I am who I am, and I think I’m starting to accept that.
I can feel myself working through the anxiety, and emerging on the other side.

I’m going to try to keep gishwhes in my mind when I  think to say no to something that frightens me. Gishwhes is symbolic; symbolic of so many different aspects of my life and the changes I’ve been making in the last several years. It’s like a bridge; the bridge between where I was and where I’m going.

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