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Issue #1: Homecoming Queen
Welcome to Salmon For Dinner: A Newsletter by Wallace Morgan
There’s a conflict within me between the curious, creative, insatiable artist and the recovering codependent, people pleaser, and perfectionist.
I’ve been writing all my life and professionally in various roles and formats for the past decade. In some arenas I am calm, cool, collected and confident. But when it comes to publishing the work closest to my heart, work written from the place of my innermost instincts, feelings, contemplations, and observations, my breath gets shallow, my heart rate speeds up, and my face gets hot with the fear of impending shame, embarrassment, or potential consequence. Or worse, I procrastinate to avoid these feelings all together.
I’ve been working on learning how to trust myself. I’ve been learning how to listen to my body, how to set boundaries, how to communicate more directly, and how to know what I know and be honest about what I don’t.
I’ve been learning to hold space for conflicting truths to exist at once. Namely that I’ve been wrong in the past and I will be wrong again. And, my truth in the way I currently understand it, matters, is valuable, and is worth sharing.
Writing, for me, is a conduit for moving forward, for allowing new perspectives to come into focus, and for freeing myself to experience more fullness of life. Like a somatic practice, the channel of movement helps me alchemize my feelings – especially those that tend to fester when bypassed like anger, confusion, disappointment, indecision, discontent, frustration, and despair.
Delights are given more room to be noticed. Joy, more time to be relished. Mysteries, conflicts, and multitudes, more accepted with compassion. In this way, writing is a deeply personal and intimate spiritual practice. Many of my words don’t need to be shared beyond the communion of my fingertips and the page. They simply need to get out of my head and into a physical form, to be liberated, seen and heard even if only by me.
Lately, however, I’ve been feeling internally pressed to publish more of my personal writing. Fighting my urge to over analyze this feeling, I am instead choosing to follow it fluidly. This newsletter will be my place to do so.
I’ve been wrestling with the truest way to do this — to write only what is honest, authentic, and uncensored. That is, to say what I mean. Anything less feels painfully futile and counterproductive.
I’ve spent quite a lot of energy trying to figure out why this is so goddamn hard for me.
In March of 2019 I was having dinner with my parents at my childhood home in Tennessee, visiting from New York where I was living at the time. One minute I was eating salmon and the next I was in the fetal position, hyperventilating on the hardwood.
I was 26 and felt as helpless as a toddler having a tantrum, unable to process my emotions or impulses. After two and a half decades of keeping my shit together, I hit a boiling point like a pressure cooker about to detonate. Every particle in my body hurt.
The next week, I sat my ass on a therapist’s couch, cried, and screamed. It felt like the first time I had ever been heard because it might have been the first time I had ever said what I was actually feeling.
She asked me where I thought all the pressure was coming from. I could barely muster an answer, but began to try.
I started writing poetry again. Poetry turned into songs. Songs turned into leaving my artist management business behind to pursue my own artistic aspirations. I started meditating and slowly learned how to sit with my body and my mind. Eventually I no longer felt I would combust.
With the help of Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” a 12 week creative recovery curriculum, I started finding meditation in other forms as well – dancing, painting, walking, and writing. Through the practice of morning pages – Cameron’s prescribed form of stream of consciousness journaling – I began to uncover myself and return to her.
Like cleaning out a closet, it got much messier before any amount of order was restored. I’m talking, deconstruct your entire worldview and a global pandemic, messy.
As I pulled the thread of my conditioning and subsequent coping mechanisms, I became more and more painfully aware of how piercing my internal censor had become.
There would be no quick fix.
I would need to patiently grease the gears, with grace and self compassion and aggressively chip away at the calcified deposits that had hardened solid by decades of following a script directing me to manage, please, curate, and conform.
The panic attack in 2019 was not the first and it wouldn’t be the last, but it was the start of learning how to breathe again.
When I was 25 I started a music management company called moxi management – a stylized spelling of the word moxie defined as “nerve, grit, know-how,” using the tagline “that girl’s got moxie” for company branding. I had quit my job at Republic Records abruptly with a trauma-sized chip on my shoulder. I hustled and glorified the grind trying desperately to prove my worth. Bought into girl boss “feminism,” I was painfully unaware of the ugly truths baked into patriarchy, capitalism, and white supremacy, and the part I was unconsciously playing in all of it.
The truth is, I had no idea what I was doing. Unsure if it was nerve, hubris, or dissociation, I was hellbent to stick it to the man. And albeit proud of this younger self for trying her best, looking back I see the problem. My reaction to the pain caused by the people and systems hurting me was to put on a performance for them in a desperate bid for love, approval, power and safety.
I was playing a part in a show where perception was a reality far more important than my actual existence. Much less, my experience of it. I was constantly censoring myself in fear of rejection.
Afraid others would abandon me, I abandoned myself instead.
Raised as an evangelical church girl and southern debutante, I internalized the pressure to tightly manage my reputation and gain approval at all costs. I needed everyone to like me. And though of course this was impossible, I had a crown to prove I’d come close. Elected homecoming queen by the student body of the all boys high school that accompanied the all girls prep school I attended, I had aced the test for male approval. Smart, cool, fun, but not too fun. Pretty, but not too pretty. A cheerleader “just for fun” and a serious athlete. Partied, but didn’t party too hard. Lead youth group but could still hang with the fast crowd. Skinny, cute, chill, hot, but not too hot!! A delicate and brutal dance.
In Melisa Febos’ brilliant book “Girlhood” she details the evolution of the word slut. Its meaning originally used to describe a “a slovenly woman, a poor housekeeper.” Eventually it came to mean “simply a dirty woman” and later also referred to “a female dog and a rag dipped in lard to light in place of a candle.” By the twentieth century, it was defined as “an immoral woman, a woman with the morals of a man,” and finally in the 1960’s as “a sexually promiscuous woman who enjoys sex in a degree considered shamefully excessive.” Febos writes, “It is a brilliant linguistic trajectory. Make the bad housekeeper a woman of poor morals. Make her maid service to men a moral duty, and every other act becomes a potentially immoral one. Make her a bitch, a dog, a pig, any kind of subservient or inferior beast. Create one word for them all. Make sex a moral duty, too, but pleasure in it a crime. This way you can punish her for anything. You can make her humanity monstrous. Now you can do anything you want to her.”
Indoctrinated by a puritanical sense of morality instructing me to embrace purity culture (abstinence before marriage), I could think of nothing worse than to be a slut. I associated pleasure, anger, conflict, and anything evocative with shame. I showed only my tidiest, most acceptable parts to the world, holding my breath and starving myself of nourishment – sexually, creatively, and in the form of literal sustenance.
This form of self sabotage started around puberty the same time I worked up the courage to write a song about a boy I had a crush on and perform it at the school assembly. Subsequently bullied by my closest friends in jest, I recoiled and rarely showcased any personal work for over a decade.
When I began sharing poetry again at age 26 as I embarked on my healing journey, I had a similar experience. This time writing about heartbreak after my relationship with the man I had planned to marry failed, my close friends and family reacted with what felt like judgment rather than care.
This time, however, I did not recoil. I pushed on. I kept writing. I started to believe myself. I started to see myself as a whole person worthy of nourishment. I started to face the rage from all the years spent being made to feel otherwise. I eventually even began releasing and performing my own music — a childhood dream I had previously starved.
Arriving at that point by 28 was anything but well kept. Asserting myself, my opinions, feelings, beliefs and choices created what felt like a shit storm. I lost friends, I almost lost my mind, and the strain on my family relationships was catastrophic.
To find my voice, I needed to figure out who I was. I had spent so long trying so hard to be who they all wanted me to be, did I actually know?
I was supposed to be a southern, conservative, christian lady not an artist and feminist living in Los Angeles.
All the “supposed to’s” had been stealing my life force. I had to get it back. This would involve not only accepting myself, but also accepting that I can, in fact, not please everyone. Furthermore, I will outright disappoint people. And likely enrage some.
While having a panic attack, it can feel like you're dying until you reconnect to your breath. Giving myself permission to live and to create in alignment with the truest understanding of myself as I evolve and become a more embodied, integrated version of myself, is a release valve holding the power of an exhale.
The way I see it now, the girl’s got moxie when she lives, speaks, and shows up in her truth – in all its messy, untidy, slutty, sometimes wrong, ever-changing-ness. It is the path to reclaim her personhood.
This is my next step forward in that journey – past the censor and onto the page.
Welcome to Salmon For Dinner, a newsletter by Wallace Morgan.
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Mostly personal essays, occasional social commentary, sporadic poetry, and new music (official releases and in-progress ditties).
POTENTIAL ESSAYS IN THE MIX:
Repenting at the Megachurch: Religious Trauma and the Tea on Hillsong
Rose’s Room: Reconciling Southern Shame
Is this plane going down? Where we go when life’s fragility rears its head
I’m not an addict or maybe I am?
Homeschooling, conspiracy theories, and carrot dogs
Imposter syndrome: A late bloomer’s queer awakening
The burn out to slow living pipeline
My therapist says life isn’t a movie ?? Finding magic in the mundane
Christian mothers and feminist daughters
Politics and election season dread
Neurodivergent TikTok. Does the algorithm know something I don’t?
Recovering from narcissistic abuse, SA, and PTSD (a fun one!)
Comment what essay topics you most want to read.
I will also share resources and recs from writers, artists, and creators who inspire and intrigue me and things I’m doing to stay sane.
Reading: Monday Monday, Girlhood by Melissa Febos, Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner, All About Love: New Visions by Bell Hooks, Mating In Captivity by Esther Perel, re-reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Listening to: The Japanese House, MUNA, boygenius, Ethel Cain, Liza Anne, Olivia Dean
Watching: The Bear, The Secrets of Hillsong, Righteous Gemstones, Boy’s Don’t Cry
Doing: Rearranging the furniture, walking my dog Binny, exchanging lengthy voice notes with long distance friends, visiting New York for the first time since 2019
Essays will be published on Substack and available to collect on Mirror. Paid subscribers get access to secret content and can comment on posts.
The majority of the work will be free to view. The paid model is available primarily for patronage for those who are able and wish to financially support my work as an artist. I will also be minting the work on chain via Mirror.
Read & Collect Issue #1 on Mirror.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Wallace Morgan is a multidisciplinary artist, singer-songwriter, and freelance writer living in Los Angeles.
Wallace is currently writing, releasing and performing music, is the author of HIGH FREQUENCY byand the author of her personal newsletter Salmon For Dinner, and writes on a freelance basis.
Over the course of her career, Wallace has worked as a journalist, publicist, and music manager (Rolling Stone, Republic Records, MOXI MANAGEMENT, and Mint Music Group), has authored various blogs, and published an online magazine from 2017-2019 (MOXI MAG).
Born and raised in Tennessee, Wallace spent her early twenties in New York City after receiving a BA in Journalism and Music Business at the University of Georgia. She is currently based in Los Angeles where she lives with her partner (Matt), their two kitties (Flea & Phoebe), and their pittie mix puppy (Binny).
A 90’s baby, the youngest of three, and the proverbial “free spirit” of the family, Wallace describes herself as a deep feeler and chronic over-thinker who is insatiably curious, often discontented, and endlessly fascinated by the brutal, beautiful and bizarre experience of life.
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