Monthly Archives: November 2010

(redux) How the workshops inspire me…

(I’m away from the computer for about a week, so I’m sharing some posts I wrote a couple of years ago after my interview with Britt Bravo and the Arts and Healing network, about the writing workshops and writing as a transformative process. – xox! Jen)

9. What inspires you the most about your workshops?

the clouds pooling on the horizon between a brilliant blue sky and the bright green grass I’m consistently inspired by these two facts: The ongoing reminder that every person has artistic brilliance inside that is seeking an outlet, and that community can web together to support one another – that we can collaborate around healing and individual/social transformation without needing MSWs or other clinical degrees. These have something to do with one another.

Have I mentioned this here before? Pat Schneider says in her book, Writing Alone and With Others, “What I believe is not what everyone believes. It is this: There is no place for hierarchies in the heart, and the making of art is a matter of the heart. Art is the creative expression of the human spirit.”

This is what I believe: Give us safe space, a room of our own (with or without safe others) and we will create change in our lives. We can be safe and explore what it means to lie and truth our way to safety, to lie our way home. We must take what we need to continue the process of survival, which is ultimately a process of resistance: the pen the paper the time the space the cafe or bedroom or kitchen table the 3 a.m. living room the subway train the cemetery the laundromat the whatever you need.

I’m working as a part of an alternative healing movement seeking to provide and facilitate spaces for self-empowerment, which might be witnessed and supported/encouraged by others on a similar journey.

(read the whole post!)

(redux) What inspired the writing workshops?

(I’m away from the computer for about a week, so I’m sharing some posts I wrote a couple of years ago after my interview with Britt Bravo and the Arts and Healing network, about the writing workshops and writing as a transformative process. – xox! Jen)

5. What inspired the workshops?

sanded light bulb -- inspiration comes through a long slow burn

For this week, I’ve got another (longish!) excerpt from an as-yet unpublished work (my book about transformative erotic writing, which I wrote for my MA degree) – there’s a bit of explicit discussion of sexual trauma in here, so just be easy with yourselves, ok?


My friend K and I were always talking about sex. Both of us survivors of sexual abuse as well as women who had been known to enjoy an erotic interlude or two (to put it mildly), I think we each reveled in sex talk with a friend who viscerally understood some of the complicating factors of our sexuality and erotics.

We’d discuss sex toys, orgasm, sex with men versus sex with women, noise, and technique. We talked about triggers and how to get through them, and how deeply frustrating it was to have triggers to get through at all: that is, how aggravating it was to be both a survivor and sexual.
We talked about how sad it was that we didn’t have more of these kinds of conversations with other women. Both of us believed that we would feel less lonely, isolated, crazy and abnormal if we could hear what other women thought and felt about sex. We also figured more women’s sex would be better–more relaxed, playful, satisfying on any number of levels–if they had access to safe, friendly, spirited and non-judgmental sexual and erotic conversation. We bemoaned the fact that sexual information was so restricted, regulated to particular conversational settings, despite the fact that every type of media is hyper-(hetero-)sexualized.

It was during these early “how do we create a better sexual landscape for ourselves and others?” conversations with K. that I began developing the idea of a writing group for women where the writing exercises would focus on sex and sexuality. Women would have the chance to write about sexuality and desire, have the experience of being heard by other women, and get to be exposed to rarely-discussed aspects of other women’s sexual lives and desires. We would learn that we weren’t so crazy after all, or so alone–that, in fact, many others shared our unspoken fears, concerns, fantasies. We would speak aloud all the things we’d been trained from infancy never to say–and find ourselves more fully alive due to our being less afraid. We would publicly and more fully inhabit our erotic intricacies.

(read the whole post!)

(redux) Can art heal?

(I’m away from the computer for about a week, so I’m sharing some posts I wrote a couple of years ago after my interview with Britt Bravo and the Arts and Healing network, about the writing workshops and writing as a transformative process. – xox! Jen)

3. Do you believe art can heal? Why?

(Whew — this is a big one!)

white spray-painted heart on red background, painted on Mass Ave sidewalk in Boston Yes, I absolutely believe art can heal. Why? Because it has done so for me, and I watch it work for others.

Let’s start with definitions, because I’m so fond of them.

Heal: My dictionary says it means, first, “to make a person or injury healthy and whole.” A later definition in the list is “to repair or rectify something that causes discord and animosity.”

See Pennebaker’s studies of college students at the University of Texas at Houston, who go to the health clinic less frequently after they write expressively about traumatic or difficult experiences. See Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, encouraging a “recovery” of and through creative expression. See even Live Through This, a collection of essays by artists who’ve battled self-destructive urges using creativity and artistic expression.

Trying to say why I think art heals is similar to the struggle folks have had defining art at all – I don’t know exactly why it works, I just know that it does.

The creation of art enacts release, transformation. The exposure to art proposes different ways of thinking, feeling, being in the room/world.

Art makes (a) way. Art is what’s possible, you know? Someone, a brave and engaged poet, said in one of my writing workshops recently, “You can say things n poems you don’t really say in casual conversation.” Music brings a whole new emotional strata to words, story, poetry – or allows the listener an evocative aural experience that’s other than language. Visual art allows for expression of emotion, idea, truth, possibility that’s outside the linguistic realm. We need to get away from words sometimes. Dance, movement, drama: these arts reintroduce us to our/the body…

(read the whole post!)

(redux) What does ‘transformative writing’ mean?

(I’m away from the computer for about a week, so I’m sharing some posts I wrote a couple of years ago after my interview with Britt Bravo and the Arts and Healing network, about the writing workshops and writing as a transformative process. – xox! Jen)

The second question on the list:
2. On your site, you describe [your workshops] as “transformative writing” workshops. How are they transformative?

Monarch emerging from its chrysalis Transformative writing is writing that changes you in the process of its creation. A dictionary gives one definition of transform as “to change completely for the better.” Another definition: “to convert one form of energy to another.”

And for the word transformation one of the definitions is: a complete change, usually into something with an improved appearance or usefulness.” Another? “A sudden changing of a stage set that takes place in sight of the audience.” Yes – that’s what we’re talking about here.

(In looking these up, I’ve just learned that there’s such a thing as transformational grammar, a phrase I find extremely exciting but which I’m not (necessarily! I can’t actually say for sure) talking about here).

Writing that’s transformative is writing that surprises the writer as it’s emerging, either with respect to form, content, structure, or some other element. It’s writing through which the writer maybe learns something about hirself* on the other end (even if the writing is fiction—that teaches us about our capacity as writers/artists). In my experience, there’s much writing that’s transformative – freewriting as a method works well for me, when I can let the writing come, can get the editor out of the way and discover after I’m done what it was that I was trying to say.

(read the whole post!)

(redux) What are the Writing Ourselves Whole workshops?

(I’m away from the computer for about a week, so I’m sharing some posts I wrote a couple of years ago after my interview with Britt Bravo and the Arts and Healing network, about the writing workshops and writing as a transformative process. – xox! Jen)

The first question on the list:
1. What are the Writing Ourselves Whole workshops?

Most basically, Writing Ourselves Whole offers transformative writing workshops, using the Amherst Writers and Artists workshop method, in the service of transforming trauma and/or struggles around sexuality into art, and creating spaces in which individuals may come to recognize the artist/writer within. (whew!)

I offer erotic writing workshops open to folks of all orientations and all genders, writing workshops to women survivors of sexual trauma, and (periodically) general topic writing workshops as well.

The Amherst Writers and Artists workshop method creates an ethically-boundaried and safe space in which all participants can write as they are drawn to write, and everyone will be encouraged in their writing. Groups are either single-day intensives or eight 2.5-hour meetings; because the groups are closed (not drop-in), participants come to trust one another and thus often allow their work to grow and deepen in risk and playfulness.

Although these groups aren’t specifically therapy-focused, the process of writing itself can be a therapeutic and transformative process.

(read the full post!)

if a girl doesn’t have her standards, what does she have

graffiti -- white daisy on a brick wallWhat about today? Still cold. The space heaters don’t really make a dent. I need fingerless gloves and am wearing a hat. Today I’m feeling kind of constricted — cold does that. So does imminent vacation. Last night I gave myself comfort foods & comfort time, after my chores were done.

What comes next? Being with the notebook pages first means I’m more conscious when I get to the computer page, means I’m more awake, means I’m thinking more about what I’m writing — my being more awake means my internal editors are more awake. This is why I like to write before the sun is up — my editors are not morning people.

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I’m going to be away from the computer for about a week, so I’ll be sharing with you some posts I wrote a couple of years ago after my interview with Britt Bravo and the Arts and Healing network, about the writing workshops and writing as a transformative process.

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Tonight’s the Erotic Reading Circle — have you been yet? It’s a great place to bring any erotic or sexual writing you’re doing, to share it with a generous and fun group of other writers and readers and get whatever sort of feedback you’d like. Bring your short stories, your poems, your scripts, excerpts from your novel, the texts or tweets that you’re working into a prose poem… bring the thing that you just started working on or somomething that you’ve been engaged with and loving for years.

Here’s something I wrote about the ERC a couple of years ago — and I continue to appreciate the powerful sharing and storytelling and support at every month’s Circle.

The Erotic Reading Circle meets at the Center for Sex and Culture, which is at 1519 Mission St, between 11th and So Van Ness, in San Francisco. I won’t be able to be there tonight, but I’ll leave you with something I might have brought tonight — and a prompt, too, so that, if you want to, you can write something to take to the Circle!

First the prompts: Read through the following three fragments and notice which one starts to percolate a sensual or hot or funny or seductive story or scene for you –
– this I whisper into your tender ears
– Stephanie always does as she’s told
– These marks I bear speak volumes

Let yourself be drawn to one (or more than one!), give yourself 10 or 15 minutes, and begin writing — and remember: feel welcome to change the prompts in any way that’s interesting for you (change the pronouns if you’d like, or add a “not” to the phrase…)

Here’s my write from this prompt, which I offered at the Declaring Our Erotic workshop earlier this month (this write is a bit sexually explicit):

Stephanie doesn’t always do as she’s told. Stephanie, in fact, almost never does a she’s told, which is how, in a round about kind of way, Stephanie finds her fine butch self tethered with a pair of thong panties to my kitchen chair while I tend to my business on the living room couch — and by business, of course, I mean my clit, and by tend, girl, well, you know what I mean.

Stephanie had been told that I am not a girl who likes to be kept waiting — it’s  not like that’s not well know around our little mid-city queer community: Althea’s not just prompt, she’s pressed and split a half-minute after you’re supposed to meet her somewhere. That means I don’t wait. You show up early or you don’t show up. I had one butch girlfriend who used to stand outside my door and stare at her wristwatch til just the exact time she was supposed to be picking me up; only then would she rap her three short knocks on my door, knowing full well I was standing exactly 6 inches from her on the other side of that hard wood, wet and shaking in my dinner date duds, and I’d have to walk my heels in place just to make it sound like I hadn’t been — right – waiting for her practiced fist to rattle my cage.

She was long gone, though, and now it’s Stephanie I’ve got to contend with. Stephanie, with the kind of good looks that make you just want to tear your eyes out so you can walk straight. First time we went out, she pulled up in front of my building about the time she was supposed to be escorting me to my car, and I would have left her out there pressing the buzzer for all she was worth but I made the mistake of looking at her in that tailored suit, shoes she’d shined up just for the occasion, a fedora at a perfect angle and carrying a single white daisy she’d ripped from someone’s front lawn — not to mention (how can I not mention?), from my third story window I could see what else she’d brought me by the bulge in her gabardine trousers It didn’t help I hadn’t been fucked in six weeks and then there she was at my front door, smelling like clean and musk and hair oil and I Just had time to say, You’re late. this is the only strike you’ll get - before she quick caught my hand, gave me the flower, slid her other hand along my waist and gave me the kind of kiss that bent my toes and thinned every resolve I’ve ever slid under my skin. Ok. One chance.

That night ended with Yours Truly walking mussed and tawdry and perfect up my stairs after Stephanie urged me away from the entry-way spotlight and instead into the bushes for a sizable good-night kiss, and me promising, yes, she could inch those hard hands up there next time if she showed up for dinner on time. Next time would be dinner at my house, Althea on parade.

So I turned out a meal fit for the king she wanted to be and she’d be eating it now, too, if she hadn’t rung my bell three minutes and forty-four seconds past her agreed-upon arrival time. I can’t ignore that this is probably extra prompt for Stephanie — but if a girl doesn’t have her standards, what does she have?

However, I think I mentioned the extreme dry spell I was experiencing — and I decided, as I buzzed the poor butch in, to see if Stephanie can be trained.

Thank you for your presence, your pressures, your love and struggle. Thank you for your words: your words matter.

the strange glitter of celebration

young girl's face wearing sunglasses

Good morning! It’s wet and chilly here — what about where you are? I’m learning about space heaters in houses with very little insulation, but more I’m learning about how grateful I am just for space heaters, and a house.

Yesterday was the last Write Whole workshop for 2010 — we had a gorgeous potluck (a plenitude of chocolate offerings!) and powerful writing. (Thank you!) This morning I was up at 5 without the alarm, and went ahead and let myself get up, out of bed, make tea and head out to the small space that I’m reallocating for creativity. I put my candle on and wrote my morning pages in dark and quiet and hope. A lot of my writing these days is about being in my body — what if I let myself be in my body? What if I got help as I re-find myself here? How do people do that? I have a project in mind — I want to tell you about it, but I think I better do it first, get it started, and show you along the way.

It’s important to me to have places in my home that are devoted to creative energy, to my own dreaming. Yes, I make altar space around my desk, which means i put up images and words that help me dream and remind me of what’s important to me (nature, healing, radical queer feminism, poetry, my sister, etc) and, too, there’s something to dedicating spaces to creative impulse, to creative engagement. Something about a corner or a room that begins to accrue creative energy and expectation — so that when I go to that corner or that room, over and over, in the early morning (which is my favorite creative time), I know & my creative self knows that this is a good and safe space for emergence and play. In the space that I’m settling into, I’ve covered the walls with images and phrases, color and faces and windows. I’ve put up the hangings that so often can’t find a place elsewhere in my home — suddenly, the space feels like a container.

(Once again the power goes out because we have on heaters in both the office & bedroom. and why not? why should two people be warm at once? So now I need to finish this quickly and get into the shower so I can get warm.)

So, a prompt for today, and a write.

Last night, for our second write, I offered the word ‘Thanks’ as the prompt. Just that.

(Of course, we are always welcome and invited to alter the prompts in any ways interesting to us, which sometimes includes adding a “no” or negating the prompt — so another option was to write to ‘No thanks.’)

Here’s my response to that prompt:

I want to find thanks for the ways that the workshops make it ok to hear, teach me not just to listen but to be witness, be solidarity, be not a fly on the wall but a body in the room with open eyes and breath, aching and accepting into horror and loss and also the strange glitter of celebration when a wrong thing has had words found for it.

Yesterday I did an exercise with some folks at a leadership retreat that I was only part of by marriage and in one of the exercises we were paired up and one of us was supposed to be in a strong visible emotion and the other was supposed to meet that emotion exactly and just walk with the first person in that emotion — so I paired with someone called Joe and he played the one with the strong emotion and scrunched up his face and squinted his eyes and balled his fists and he’s slender and scrub haired and goateed and muscly and he started rarr-ing and growling, so I fell into step with him and scrunched my forehead and growled and argh-ed and we paced shoulder to shoulder and then started laughing and he said, It gets so much lighter when you take half of it

and isn’t that true even so much fucking later, when suddenly there’s someone else, there’s a roomful of grace-laden warrior artists, in the room with me and her or him just bearing witness to atrocity, who can see the shape of the couch under him, the one who’s over me, those artists who can hear the tv blaring, hear my mother’s key not unlocking the door — time is unlaced this way, the pages open up around us, I am each of those girls at every age and I am here now, too, and there with the circle of fierce writers who are watching and listening and taking notes and wheat-pasting those notes to the concrete sides of buildings, who are not alone, who were never alone, or were and are and still shimmer around the edges with lacing like light through the tellings that were never meant to escape our throats

I say thanks for this sacred thing, placing word upon word after word in your presence and reclaiming a home and a hand for that young woman that girl there on that couch way back then.

Thanks to you, always.

spaces with purpose

black 'n white photograph of a two-lane highway in new mexico, and enormous clouds and sky

(NM, here we come...)

A short post today — I was reminded this morning that setting the alarm is all well and good, but you’re not likely to hear it if you don’t also turn it on. So I had just enough time to do my three morning pages before it was time to get ready for work.

I want to talk with you about creating play spaces (I’m in the middle of re-appropriating a part of my home as a place just for creativity and play), movies about following one’s creative instincts (we saw the visually-stunning Book of Kells this weekend, which I didn’t know was a real object d’art ’til I went looking for more information just now), and roadtrips as regenerative practice.

And maybe tomorrow morning I will be able to — for now I want to offer you a prompt for the day.

The prompt is this poem by Martin Jude Farawell; read through it and notices what comes up in response for you — begin with whatever voices or images arise as you’re reading, or begin with the phrase “If I…” (or “If he…,” “If she…,” “If you…”):

If I Sing

If I sing, I weep.
If I sing joy, even sing joy, I weep.
If I weep, if I weep, if cries splatter from me,
if I sputter snot and spit
down my chin, my shirt, your shirt,
if I shake and shake until you fear I’ll shake apart,
don’t be afraid for me, don’t be ashamed;
I will not break from this, will not die,
but from lack of it, from the closing,
and I will not close anymore, will not deny anymore
the child I was who could not
cry out has kept crying in
me.  And now that I can cry I will sing,
even if my song comes shoved out
on the wave of snot and spit I swallowed not
to cry, I will sing.

(Thanks to John Fox who introduced me to this poem this summer at the Healing Art of Writing conference)

Here’s my response to this prompt:

If she’s been drinking, she cries. Jocelyn doesn’t drink much, but when she does it’s with a purpose. She heads to the one par in her area that could conceivably be called a women’s bar, the place where all the cowgirls pour in to for Budweisers and whatever game is on that night, for their drama and electricity, even though the owners will never hang a rainbow flag out front or send representatives to the gay pride march that happens every August about 50 miles away in Northampton, even still, the owner does keep a bat behind the bar for any local boys who get it into their heads to fool with his good clientele come closing time, and the women grumble about one more man who thinks he has to protect them, but they keep frequenting the little bar with the torn stools and bad ’80s disco on the jukebox.

And Joss goes there, too, ’cause she wants the company, ’cause it’s a place where most of the women she’s talked to or worked with at the shelter will not show up, and so it’s a place where she can slowly sip her way into a gentle disintegration.

The bartenders know Joss, keep her bottle of bad Canadian whiskey full so they can make her cheap whiskey-n-Cokes like she thinks maybe her folks back home would be drinking. She doesn’t know the folks back home, left before her stepfather was done with her and her sisters, which meant she left before she could find her own kind of connection with her kin, her cousins and uncles and aunts. That thought, just exactly that sort of thought, starts the tears pooling, pulling them up from the ache in her shoulders, up from that always-knot in her belly. She folds tired strong arms on the scratched and worn bar, she takes long gulps of her drink and she starts to fight back crying while she watches the women gather and fill up the bar with too much need and dust.

Someone puts “Gloria” on the jukebox and Joss thinks about how much she wants to be easy with people the way these women seem to be with each other. Some of them know Joss, just recognize her stony presence, how familiar she is there, her face wide and weary, crow’s feet just beginning to pull at the edges of her dusky hazel eyes, and always looking like she’s about to cry. Joss’ll smile, or try to smile, at one or two of the women, nod, then order another drink.

She doesn’t come out to this bar often, and she doesn’t come but for one purpose. After three or six of those whiskey-n-Cokes, Joss’ll be in her car, door slammed shut, head on her hands, sobbing — the kind of crying that sounds like someone’s trying to relinquish their guts through their throat, the dark night clutched tight to her shoulders, alone, hoping this time, finally, she will be able to get it all out.

Thanks for the ways you make room for your grief, and also make quiet sparkling room for your joy. Thanks for your words. Thanks always for your words.

what hasn’t worked for you?

graffiti -- cartoon blackbird standing upright, wings pushed behind Sending you big love and encouragement today — Fridays, as you’ll remember I recently decided, are my writing days. They’re supposed to be days that I devote just to my own writing stuff, and not to workshop stuff or day job stuff or other people’s writing stuff.

So far today, I’ve spent about 30 minutes on my own writing and 4.5 hours on reading the local weekly cover to cover, weeding through email, reading facebook, researching computers, making tea and breakfast, following friends’ facebook links to other websites that needed in-depth exploration, a day-job work conversation (which was with a friend, but it was about work, and either way, it was not about or doing my writing), playing with the computer to make the monitors work right, making more tea … so, maybe I should say more honestly that Fridays are devoted to procrastination.

I’ve been devoted to writing since I was 6, and wanted to be an ‘author’ since I understood that that’s what the people whose job it was to make books were called. For the past 10 years I’ve been writing with some desire for publication, and have had some stuff published. I’ve written with many people in that time, and have learned some stuff about publication from their experiences, too.

Here’s what I’ve learned doesn’t work to get your writing published:

– leaving it in the notebook and expecting an editor to manage to find it when she’s randomly flipping through the pages while she waits in a long line for your bathroom during one of the big parties (that you actually never throw);

-typing it up and leaving it on your computer and hoping that an editor will somehow break into your machine from afar, across the Internet,  just because she got the idea that you must have good stuff in there that you’re not sharing and she must use any means necessary to find it;

– spending the better part of a day (that you’d originally planned to spend doing something else, like going to the dentist or depositing your paycheck or going on a date) getting a piece ready to send out to a call for submissions because you realized that the deadline was at 5pm that day, and then discovering that the deadline was actually a year or — OR realizing that the piece had to be usps-mailed and received by the deadline, not emailed — OR getting fed-up and discouraged with the piece (and depressed by and for your future) and thereby missing both the deadline and your date;

– hoping that somehow playing on facebook or reading blog posts or creating reading lists on Amazon will somehow convey to the world that you are a thoughtful, risky, innovative writer whose words deserve a book contract and six figure advance…

These have been among my favorite and most used methods of trying to get published, and I can report to you now that they have been uniformly unsuccessful. What attempts at publishing haven’t worked for you?

Today I’m going to try that one last method that I attempt much, much less frequently — actually sending a piece of writing to an editor.  Wish me luck.

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Today’s prompt (and write!) — “13 ways of looking at a blackbird.’ Pat Schneider re-introduced me to this prompt, and I’ve offered it with each of my three workshops this week.

Create a short list of things or places that are interesting to you or your character or bring you or your character joy — try not to think about this too much: rubber bands, icicles, teacups, etc. The more ‘mundane’ the better!

Then take as your model Wallace Steven’s poem “13 ways of looking at a blackbird” — choose one of the items on your list, take 20 minutes and write a number of small ‘ways of looking’ at that thing. (When I’m doing this exercise with an erotic writing workshop, I like to use Letta Neely’s poem “8 ways of looking at pussy” as our model.

Here’s one of the writes I did to this prompt this week:

10 ways of looking at a candle

1.
bright yellow flicker strobing my too-early morning eyes

2.
quiet heat holding up the corner of the altar and i kiss the glass with my 2 fingers and name this flame for you

3.
this one burns hotter than that one, honey — it’s ok if you yelp when the melt hits your skin

4.
one more flicker in an angled raised platform of glass votives here in this church — I take the stick and pull flame form one to light the other. Might not be my faith but it is my mother’s, so I offer her prayer in a language she can understand

5.
little pointy face pushes to find the source of the heat and singes whiskers

6.
when the long holiday table is weighted down with the meal, we turn down the overhead lights and let the edges of platters and good once-a-year silver glitter and glint in the silence

7.
somewhere there’s a picture of us holding the shamos together to light the menorah that first year in our new house — your crazy fat wrought-iron art piece menorah on the stone hearth — and every year now I miss the ritual I left behind, and I still think of kissing good luck every time a candle burns out and the warm smoke spools up from the wick

8.
it doesn’t feel like another year older unless I’ve had at least one, plus a song

9.
the kitchen smells like honey as I pour melted beeswax into the glass jars we found at the yard sale — a year from now, outside Denver, the thick fluted glass will split when my father’s wife lights the wick I set into the wax, but for now I am proud to have created something so sturdy and functional and sweet.

10.
if you put it here under this dusty pot, we can keep looking at the stars while the water heats for tea

Thank you for the ways you can laugh at yourself, how you keep your own faith, and for your words. (Your words, your words!)

resurrecting what connection still remains

street art: the word COLD in puffy white lettering, with red bug-people flying over topOk, so it’s cold where I am. Maybe not as cold as where you are, but cold. It shouldn’t be below 60-degrees inside a house, I think. I’m not sure I understand california architects that built houses with little or sub-par insulation. Were they, too, believing the hype about california sunshine, even though they lived in the rain and the fog and the chill?

So, pull on your slippers and cap and come on in.

Last night we went to see SARK down at Book Passage in Corte Madera. She’s touring and talking about her new book, Glad No Matter What. I was super proud of myself for being able to get there on the bus. (And don’t we sometimes get super proud of ourselves for things like that? look! I navigated my own way there, all by myself, even though I didn’t have good directions and so had to listen to my instincts — and they were right! So this morning I wrote a little “good for you!” note to me, which feels like something SARK would do. I often distrust my instincts and intuitions when I’m with other people, so it’s powerful to have reminders that my instincts have useful stuff to tell me if I would continue to pay attention, even when other outside voices are there.) SARK told stories and encouraged us to think of ourselves, to understand ourselves, as ‘transformational change agents.’ And we each are, aren’t we? I’m in an especially heavy place right now, so it was a gift to get to be with this idea of going in to change and the feelings it brings up, instead of resisting it — maybe even creating art or other new and delightful stuff from that place of discomfort. And, of course, the other thing she talked about was the power of being, and being honest about, where we are: So, when I come into a workshop and I’m feeling depleted and I try to pretend like everything’s fine (for instance), I generally feel out of whack and tense and frustrated. Because, of course, everything isnt’ fine. But when I come in honestly and say, “I’m feeling tired today and low energy, and so if I seem a little off, that’s what’s going on — it isn’t you! Let’s do our work together and just know I might not be able to hold our energy as well as I’d like” then we all have permission to be imperfect and to maybe be a little softer with each other. I think.

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So, here’s what I’ll say: I’m sad today and wish I could spend the next several days just curled up and nesting, making good teas and comfort foods and reading and maybe even doing a little bit of writing, just a little, no pressure. The sad is just thick and old and filling the places in me that have felt depleted and so I’m noticing and being with it and maybe there will be some time to tend it, even.

It’s a self-care thing to be honest about how we feel, isn’t it? To let it just be. To let us just be.

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A prompt and a workshop write for today: create a couple of lists, one titled “Things I miss (you miss//she/he/ze misses)” and the other titled “Things I don’t miss (you don’t miss//she/he/ze doesn’t miss).” Take a couple of minutes for each list, let the ideas come as they come: you might have lists that all center around the same time or person or thing or place, or that describe things you or your character miss and don’t miss about several different things.

Then you might choose one item from each list as your starting place, allowing yourself to write about both the missing and the not missing. Follow your writing wherever it seems to want to go.

Here’s my response to this prompt, from last spring:

I don’t miss the way I was so sure of everything, at 20, and how I was knocked down into, knocked back on my heels with new learning. I mean, I don’t miss the taste of eating crow, eating my words, but that’s only because it’s still a regular experience for me.

What else — I don’t miss the vision of my culture as a bleak, emptied universe and I had to write on all of these before I could touch on something I do miss — how my sister and I used to share secret languages, and the certainly that behind every new encounter with the world, she would be there, wanting to hear about it, holding me up like morning — steady like that, and rosy-bright and true.

I can hardly remember that time, when we were nemesis and true companions, how she was my heartbeat (wasn’t she?) and the thing I wanted to be farthest away from because she was a tether, something holding me to the now, in her pastels and confident girlness and the kind of attention and adoration that only a little sister can offer a big sister — I’m thinking too much about this and because I don’t want to write the story of how we got our heart strings severed, it’s difficult to sink into the story of what it was like Before.

But this much is true: even in the worst times, when we were each other’s betrayers, we were each other’s truest — what?–each other’s truest smile, too, each other’s most and least safe space. This doesn’t show you anything, you can’t feel her fierce smile and the way it opens her whole self like grace and how broken we were just when she was at her most depressed, when she called me, desperate for reassurance, and I realized, there on my linoleum floor, sitting with the phone to my ear and my back to the kitchen cabinets, 300 miles away from her and utterly unable to save her. How can I miss what I only remember the faintest trail of, what I can barely sniff out, in the wind: how sisters craft the tenderest spaces for each other, and when those spaces are wrecked, there’s barely any rubble left where you could leave a marker, or flag, something to indicate where the unearthing could begin, the work of recovering, of resurrecting what connection still remains?

Thank you for the tenderness you’ll offer yourself today, the moments that you’ll trust your intuition, what you know is true and best for you and others. Thank you thank you for your words.