Monthly Archives: January 2011

release and cleansing

graffiti of a flock of birds in silhouette, seeming to emerge from a curved stone stairwayGot to wake up with the birds today — up and out walking through the just-breaking dawn, and quiet neighborhoods suddenly clipped alive here, then there, then there, with bird calls. Coming home, a goldfinch couple landed on the fence just as I approached. Good morning!

Walked through some quiet downtown neighborhoods I hadn’t yet visited in our year here — where will we be at the end of this month? Where is the next home? Said hello to pups out for walks, to people visiting their cars and cats and kids. (What does that mean?) Said hello to the morning flowers and the thin, pale rose coloring the edge of the sky as the sun arose.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A beautiful workshop on Saturday in Sacramento — a day of claiming and reclaiming our erotic story! It was such a gift to be with 13 incredible writers, to get to play around in the language of desire for a day, to step into that bawdy embodiment in community — thanks to all who were there! Lots of laughter, some ragged edgings of tears, and plenty of flushed cheeks: we were grateful for the cool tule fog outside once it was time to break for lunch!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Coming up next:

  • Writing Transitions this Saturday, Feb 5! Are you or your characters preparing to move through some transitions? Join us Saturday for Writing Transitions, and give yourself the opportunity to write into your own, possibly surprising, possibilities while supporting Writing Ourselves Whole!
  • Writing the Flood on Saturday, Feb 12! (this month, Writing the Flood meets on the second instead of the third Saturday, so we can have one more meeting in the Flood building before the big move!)

I love these writing Saturdays — we take the day or an afternoon and devote that time to living into our creative discovery and play. What a powerful group of folks to get to be a part of!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Plenty of transitions going on around these parts, and lots of old fears and worries and sorrows are emerging in the space created by slowing down and moving my body more. This is what I wanted and what I was afraid of: if I stop all the racing around, then everything I’ve been running from will catch up with me.

Right. Hello again.

How to move through all of this that I spent years avoiding? How to avoid feeling like I will never be free of this sorrow, that loss?

Keep walking, and let the tears come. Read, watch movies, let friends in, keep stretching. This is not supposed to be comfortable (remember?) — comfortable is what got you here. This is new growth, and growing pains hurt.

Reading through Pinkola Estés again, this time, La Selva Subterranea (p. 404-405):  “There are times in a woman’s life when she cries and cries and cries, and even though she has the succor and support of her loves ones, still and yet she cries. Something in this crying keeps the predator away, keeps away unhealthy desire or gain that will run her. Tears are a part of the mending of rips in the psyche where energy as leaked and leaked away. The matter is serious, but the worst does not occur–our light is not stolen–for tears make us conscious. There is no chance to go back to sleep when one is weeping.”

This is not just true for women, I think.

It feels, so often, like the tears will never end — but they do, when it’s time for them to. Are there unexplainable tears coming right now, or tears that feel continuous or constant? Can you let them come with out shame or self-blame? Is one of your characters in a place of many many tears? Is there wisdom in these tears, in this place of release and cleansing? What are the tears bringing up?

Thank you for all of your wise healing ways, every urge and strategy and mechanism that your brave and resilient self has crafted to bring you through to this right now. Thank you for your creativity, your words.

small and gentle, every day

graffiti: I'm expressing myself!Up and ready to head to Sacramento for my first workshop there! Today’s workshop is  Reclaiming our Erotic Story: the Liberatory Potential of Writing DesireI woke up a bit before my alarm went off, ’cause I’m so excited about this one. It’s a full house for a full day of claiming and diving into the layers and complexities of our own erotic stories!

I get to connect with several of the Sutterwriters facilitators today, too — Sacramento folks, you’ve got an AWA goldmine up there, a whole networked community of writing workshops. John Crandall, of Crandall Writers, is hosting today’s event. Thank you, John!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve got “Rules of the Road” from Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way, right next to my computer right now — a list of 10 ‘rules’ or practices for encouraging our artist selves. Number three, which has been bringing me to tears recently, reads: Set small and gentle goals and meet them.

I’ll write more about this soon, but right now my small, gentle goal is to be on the road by 7, which means getting in the shower now. I want to invite you to consider that possibility for your artist self: what’s a small and kind-to-you artistic goal that you could work toward or meet this weekend? The goals I set are often very big: write book. No, it’s publish book. What’s a small step in that direction? Write a small section? Write for 30 minutes?

What are your big goals? Want to take one and piece it out into smaller steps — those steps, don’t we all know, add up to something big and necessary.

Thank you for your youness today. Thanks for your words!

shifting wholeness

graphic of the movement of the continents from Pangea to the present daytoday’s tea is anise – nettle- dandelion – mint. Wake up and ease the belly and lungs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A gorgeous Erotic Reading Circle last night — stories read from cell phones and paper, blog posts and s/m and sex in long-term relationships and more! Carol and I both read our stories from her book, More 5 Minute Erotica. Next month’s Reading Circle meets on the fourth and last Wed, Feb 23!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is what came to me last night, or this morning, really, when all of our alarms started going off — and bear with me, because this might end up being something that seemed really profound in the dark of early morning, but in the (closer to) light of day, is really not that interesting, kind of like when you’re stoned and every connection and link between you and the universe is suddenly made visible, or, no, you realize that no links are necessary because you are the universe and the universe is you — and it seems utterly profound until you wake up the next day, lungs clogged and smoky and thick and head pounding, looking at the notes you scrawled–”Universe-me! Us! No bus lines needed!”– and trying to reconnect with the sense of wonder that had flooded through you the night before.

Anyway -

This is what came to me: pangea. Pangea is the way all the continents fit together, before they drifted over the last 200 million years to create the continent arrangement on our planet today. Pangea was the parts all together, before various traumas and tectonic plate shifts caused them to break apart and rearrange.

This is what I thought: we’re pangea when we’re born. And then we break apart. Life breaks us apart. And when we say we want to come together again, is it that we want to reach that Permian state, regain it, reshape ourselves into a single whole? Or is there a way of understanding this new arrangement as also a whole — these parts and the liquid/loss/longing/sorrow/ache/joy flowing in between and amid them: this is what makes us up now.  This is us, undivided.

When I think about all the different parts and selves, I think about wanting unification — and then I think about my language and my metaphors. Must there be a pangeal unification in order for me to feel ‘whole,’ or is there a way to understand myself/selves as already unified within this one me — or as potentially already unified, in communication with one another, if not actively, then psychically, washed over by the same fluid stuff of history and desire?

So, what do you think? This could be the prompt: What is the tectonic arrangement of all of your different selves? I’m not talking only to people who identify as multiples (I don’t identify as such): all of us have different aspects or parts of ourselves: work self, parent, friend, child, student, girl/boyfriend or spouse … do these selves know each other? How do they relate to one another? What does each think of the others? If you are a multiple, how do your different parts relate to the various social selves in you?

Thank you for all the parts and interconnections that have held you together, and that you carry so tenderly. Thank you for your deep and persistent creativity, and for your words.

Book notes: Beyond Survival

cover for the book Beyond SurvivalI just recently discovered the book Beyond Survival: A Writing Journey for Healing Childhood Sexual Abuse by Maureen Brady, and I’m glad to be able to add it to the Writing Ourselves Whole library.

Published in 1992, this is a collection of 52 writing exercises specifically focusing on issues around healing from sexual trauma; the idea is that you give yourself a year to explore through writing your own healing: week 2: Breaking the silence; week 15: But who am I?; week 32: Sexuality; week 49: Trust.

The exercises are much more directive than I offer in the Write Whole workshops, in that they ask the writer to specifically consider different parts of our life and struggle after experiencing sexual trauma: write what you remember about the abuse, write what you lost by keeping secrets,  write what you’re afraid will happen if you trust people — each week’s exercise includes a page or so of discussion about that theme or issue. You could respond to these exercises for yourself or for your characters (if you’re working with a character who is a survivor of sexual violence, writing in response to some of these exercises could be an excellent way to learn more about them and their lives).

Beyond Survival seems like it would make a good companion for folks working with The Courage to Heal, but is also a  powerful tool on its own, regardless of how long you have been wrangling with the aftermath of trauma.

More as I read through this new find!

uprooted

photo of uprooted tree, facing the light brown soil and roots

I want to give you something hopeful today, but I am not feeling hopeful at this moment. Sometimes it’s ok, isn’t it, not to paste on the mask and pretend like everything’s fine. Sometimes we’re not fine, we who have been through hard shit, we who work too much for too little, we who are aching and frightened and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. There are days like that. Yes, there’s a light there, maybe we’ve lived long enough to know it must be somewhere down there, but right now we’re in the dank middle, and it sucks.

I am at a low point — there are low points that happen every month, low energy points when I am bleeding and releasing, and I find it frustrating that I have to keep on going like everything’s normal during this time in my months, like I’m not releasing a part of my body back to the earth.

And what else am I releasing? A home and a workspace — these spaces, watered, I’ll tell you, with blood and tears and laughter, and now I’m yanking up what tenuous roots had started feeling their way down through the rough calloused edges of me, had started to set, had started just barely to take up home. We’re taking them up again. God forbid there should be a solid grounded home. I don’t sit still long enough to let anything grow, pull up my roots again and again, up from everywhere. My dirt is dangling again and I am tired of always moving around, always running, always carrying my roots over one arm, saying that the next place will be somewhere I can set them to the soil, then running off again before we can truly find out.

I am tired of running. I have been running and running for almost 20 years, and I can’t even tell you exactly what I have been running from, just that something in me is holding its sides now and bent down and crawling, too exhausted to keep going.

What does it mean when that happens? When whatever circles we’ve been running in suddenly close up tight and we run smack into ourselves?

(In finding the image, I can push gently into the hopeful part, looking at that rich soil and humus around the tree’s roots: what life needs to be unearthed in order to have room to breathe and what new growth can emerge from the stuff we’ve been composting, the rich, fecund parts of ourselves we’ve tended even unconsciously?)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

An idea for a write: What do your (or your character’s) roots look like? Can you imagine them eminating from part of your body? Are they long or shallow, slender or thick, many or singular? Do they live in a particular place? Do you want them to live some particular place? How do they feed you? What do they feed you? Give yourself 10 minutes (or more, if you get going) to follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thanks for being here and for reading Thank you for feeling and tending to the roots that are feeding you in preparation for the next part. Thank you for your words.

this part

stencil graffiti of a young childShe said, This is what you survived for. This is the healing part.

Oh.

I’m alive with that today, opening to it, and I leave it for you, too, for all of your parts and selves to consider –

to write into, if you want to.

This moment, even: This is what you (we) survived for.

Thank you for that.

still learning the muscles required

graffiti of silhouette standing beneath a raincloud, and another silhouette offering that person an umbrellaI’m just beginning the first of many re-reads of Annie G. Roger’s A Shining Affliction — I want to tell you about it, but I don’t know if my words are far enough away from the story to really get into the details yet this morning. I can’t do a book report or a review yet, although I’d like to. I do know that it’s re-sparked my curiosity about and interest in Lacanian psychoanalysis (which got fully opened when I first read another of her books, The Unsayable: The hidden language of trauma, a couple of years ago, and has been lingering and touching my terror of it ever since).

this morning I have story after story I want to tell you, and I am too scared and stuck to open my mouth

What are the languagings for that experience? I’m aware of being badly in need of help, and not knowing why anyone would help me, and, while I’m feeling all this, experiencing, too, that self above the self that watches and is curious about it all: where does that certainty of not being help-able, not being worth helping, come from?

I want you to read her work and then talk with me about it — I want to go to where she is and study with her. This feels too exposed, writing this, naming my desire for a teacher. This is all so layered, in a culture that values (the myth of) individualism and sees any request for help as a sign of weakness.

One thing that happens with this book (A Shining Affliction, I mean) for me as a reader and a survivor of trauma and a facilitator of healing/transformative spaces with and for others, is that I’m offered the opportunity to be imperfect, un-cured, incompletely healed, as I move forward in my own work. That it is ok to still be wounded and healing (and doing your work around that wounding, of course) when you are working on holding space for others to do their work. I get stuck around that sometimes: I feel I should be entirely well, fixed — and that, if I’m not, I risk doing harm to others, those in my workshops; no, that, in fact, I am harming them, period. That I am harm. (That’s some old stuff.)

Of course, who, in this culture, is entirely well? And, separate from that, isn’t it true that the “healer” who is aware of and working on hir own stuff is providing more safety for the folks ze works with, because ze is more able to see hir triggers and ‘stuff’ as separate from the other person’s stuff? And we know that the isolation of those who experience trauma contributes to this feeling of being both unsafe and unhelpable. (How’s that for distancing language? I mean to say, the ways I was isolated during my adolescence contribute to this sense of having to do for myself, still learning the muscles required to reach out for help.)

I would like to be more articulate about this this morning, but I have to get ready for work.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What would you like help with? In what areas do you feel unhelpable? Can you write out the help you (or your character) would like, in as much detail as possible?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you for the help you provide to others, and the ways you allow yourself to risk letting other people help you. Thank you thank you for your words.

a loss of familiar and yes to change

one of the small altars in the workshop space, with an image of ganesha, sea shells and stones, dried flowers... and lots of hope

I wanted to talk about transition, how it’s exciting and difficult, simultaneously, in the same brea(d)th. But today the writing is coming hard. There are some times when you know that something big is happening for you underneath all of your surfaces and terrors, under your day-to-day-nesses and the funk of old drama that sits on your shoulders. I am getting ready to move out of two places that have held me and my work and those I love, and that doesn’t necessarily even feel like the biggest transition that this self is undergoing — I mean, I have the sense that more is working it way out from under where I’ve hidden it, where I hid it a long time ago.

Still, all transitions, no matter how small, deserve to be honored; and, too, I think about how I often feel sad during times of change, even if the change is of my calling, even if the change is exactly what I wanted. There’s loss in change, a moving away from what has been, a moving into new. There’s a loss of familiar, a release and a relenquishing.

So I’m thinking right now about what it’s been like to have an office space in downtown San Francisco for the Writing Ourselves Whole workshops. In the summer of 2007, I finally got tired of having to schlep all the workshop materials, all the bits and pieces I’d use to create the space and set the tone for the workshop, all over town to the different spaces I was renting by the hour. I wanted a place that would be devoted to our work, where I could leave all of my materials and where, too, the chairs would stay in the same place: no having to rearrange the room every workshop night. I could set up a small altar space, I could have bookshelves and a small lending library, we could have pictures on the walls. We could have quiet and a solid space to hold our laughter, our rage, our words.

I did not believe that I would be able to afford an office in downtown San Francisco when I first went and looked at spaces there, but we found something that worked — a 350+-sq. ft. office with a partition down the middle, so that there was workshop space on one side and office/snack space on the other, with a sink and great storage space for lots of books. Over the last several years, Fresh! and the workshop participants have helped me to shape the space into something just for Writing Ourselves Whole writers: we found a couch and rug at Ikea, chairs at Uhuru in Oakland, tables at yard sales — now and again I had an excuse to head over to the Ross just across the street, to look for small office things: a tea caddy, for example, was the most recent. Peggy donated an electric teapot to the space, and from a man in the building who was moving to a different space, I got a big desk, coat hanger, cork board, and laser printer. Slowly, organically, the space took on its own shape, felt welcoming and comfortable, and kept within it all the writer’s words — the only groups that ever met in the space have been writing or reading groups.

I decorated with all the postcards that I’d been carrying around with me from space to space — now they could be permanent fixtures. Now they had a home.

In the first year, or just into the second, the space was robbed — when I walked in that night, I saw that the recycling had been overturned, there were papers all over, and little by little, I became aware of what was missing, what had been dug through. I lost a bunch of small items and a lot of confidence; no one could tell me what happened — did I leave the space unlocked? Did someone from maintenance? Whoever it was who ‘broke in’ was likely just walking down the floor, trying all the doors to see which one opened — suite 423 just happened to be the one that night. They took small things that they could sell (that’s become my story), leaving printers behind in favor of a load of small rocks, speakers, the radio-cd player, more…It was supposed to be a workshop night the night that I found that we’d been robbed, and I had to call all the writers and tell them. I felt like all of our space had been violated! One of the writers came on over to the office anyway, to hang out with me, and I’m still so grateful for that. I wasn’t much help to the officer that came down; it had been about a week since I’d been in the space, so I had no idea when the robbery might have occurred.

And that was the ongoing issue: not the robbery or the risk, but the fact that, in between workshops, I wasn’t able to be in the office. I’d created a space that I loved to work in and that was centrally-located and accessible, I couldn’t afford not to have another job in order to keep it — which meant that, over the last several years, I’ve spent remarkably little time there. That’s not what I wanted: I imagined that, eventually, I’d be in the space, working on/with writing ourselves whole full time. I could picture the phone line, more plants, maybe even daytime workshops or one-on-one editing/writing meetings with folks. But that’s not what happened — we’re just not there yet.

Mid-next month, I’ll be officially moving out of this space. I’m not sure where we’ll end up: I’d like something both larger and more economical, with maybe access to a kitchen and bathrooms that don’t require keys. I’m looking forward to the change, to maybe even finding a couple of other workshop facilitators who want to create a space together — and, too, I’m mourning. I’m going to miss that little room, where we’d all be too tight in together during break time if there were more than about five of us in there at a time, bumping elbows, oops, excuse me – and yet, I want to describe for you the miracle of quiet, fierce attention when everyone was writing, and the room filled with taps and scratches, with focus and deep breathing: I’d look up from my own notebook and celebrate what this room, the steel and marble and wood, would continue to hold, even after I cleaned up that night, turned the lights off and checked the lock.

I say thank you to the space every time I leave it — we have created something important together.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At the beginning of next month, on Feb 5, I’m holding a goodbye worksheet-fundraiser in the space, Writing Transitions. There’s both a morning and an afternoon session — a chance for us to hold gratitude for this space that has held us, and, too, to dive into our own transitions and write into/through some of them. Spaces are beginning to fill, but there are still quite a few openings — I’d love for you to join us!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A prompt for today: Transition is defined as: passage: the act of passing from one state or place to the next. Sometimes we feel like we’re only supposed to have one sort of feeling about a transition: joy or sorrow. Never both, or more. Jot down some of the transitions you’ve undergone recently (or that your character is moving toward or through) and let yourself choose one to focus on. Take three pages and write into the different feelings you had about that passage. Can you think about what each different emotion tasted or looked like? How is transition similar to transformation? This is just for you — no one else has to see it.

Thank you for your patience with yourself and your processes. Thank you for your powerful words: always.

we’re ok / we’re not ok

graffiti of 2 blue and purple birds on a wireThere are days when this phrase flints itself against me, inside the emptiness, inside the loss, all through my body: I’m not ok, I’m not ok, I’m not ok. And what my conscious mind thinks is about how desperately I want to be able to be public with how I’m doing, how I’m sad or angry or lost, how much I miss my family, how broken I feel in that moment, how not put-together and fine.

And then there’s the other side of “I’m not ok,” which is, I’m not safe, I’m not a good person, I’m not someone you want to know or be around. Like something about the very essence of me is not all right. What if I let that feeling fly whenever it pushed through me? What if I let it out of my mouth and fingers?

When I don’t, what I get left with is the hangover from the stuffing down, the hangover from hiding (from) my not-okayness, my humanness. The stiffness and achiness in my shoulders, where I hold the rage, in my throat, where I swallow all my words.

We know that in our culture, women showing rage is not ok. We’re supposed to be good and quiet, cry if we’re upset, laugh a lot otherwise and make other people comfortable. Wanting to be other than that is not ok. Wanting to feel all of our bodies is not ok. Wanting people to take care of their shit is not ok (that’s supposed to be part of our job), wanting to scream or cry in public or wherever is not ok. Wanting to not be safe, to be a danger, is definitely not ok.

There’s a  place that can get unlocked in me, that I still carry from those years back, a huge thick of hopelessness. Hopelessness is ok for women, isn’t it? When it moves out to consume me, I am reminded (“reminded”) that nothing will ever be ok, that no place in the world is safe, that my aches and hollows are meant to be, are built into my system now, are left for me to hold and cradle and love (like a woman does all her babies, right?).

(But isn’t it a radically honest thing to attend to and hold all the parts of ourselves, even, especially, the messiest ones?)

I want to tell you about stone butch and incest survivor femme, stone femme, and when I open my mouth, all the words get clotted beneath the thick mass that lives in the low part of my throat, all those years of unspokens, all those years of holding back, don’t offend, don’t upset, you want people to think you’re ok. I want to tell you about how many different ways stone can melt, transform, unfold, unfurl — and, too, how many different ways it sets inside the body, how it roots in conversation, in distrust, in fear. How our histories, our daily realities, take up residence in our right now and remind us that we are not ok, we are never ok, even (especially!) with this person here who sees our scars and tells us they love them, even with this person who runs their hand over our hardest places and offers to love us anyway, even with the someone who told us we could tell them anything, and then stayed after we did, holding what has damaged us, what could damage us still. I want to tell you about triggeredness that inflames another’s triggers, about days spent throbbing from the deepest wounds getting reopened, about how very common this all is and yet how intimate, individual, personal, just-us it feels. I want to tell you about the tremendous grace required and revealed when we meet each other anyway, when we continue to love each other anyway, not in spite of or because, but with and through.

There’s so much more I want from this writing right now — it needs to be an essay, not a blog post. I want to tell you about all the different ways, shapes, forms that “not ok” takes — what does that mean? I’m trying to learn my own not-okayness, meet those selves that carry my rage, my inappropriate responses, my cattiness, my too big strengths and desires and hungers. I want to tell you about butch strength and femme huger and femme strength and butch hunger. I want to tell you how tired I am of femme-girl-woman being relegated to the hungry open mouth, and I want to tell you about the resilience of allowing oneself to know and speak one’s appetites.

I’ve been rereading Stone Butch Blues, because I’m still searching for old-school femme voices through the mouths of butches: where is the femme’s novel, the book about about pushing through the struggle to live a full life while loving butches? Where are words of femmes who stood their ground, took up space in bars and at women’s/feminist meetings, had to rage on both sides, had so little room to blossom completely, (just as their lovers had so little room to blossom completely), who never disappeared into shadows or straight life? Where are those words, describing how femmes made a life for themselves with partners who needed them to melt stone, and who carried stones of their own, so often untended to? I need that history. I guess I need to know this work leads somewhere. I need to see how my foremothers stood their own ground, raised their voices and energies for their own needs, took care of their power in a community that just saw them as girls, as T&A. Or is that only now? Is that only me? Where are those words? Still stuck in so many of our throats.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Let’s do this:  Make a list entitled, It’s not ok for me to…. Let yourself write down 10 things that it’s not ok for you or your character to want or think or feel. Then read through your list, and mark one or two that have a lot of energy for you, for whatever reason.

Begin writing with one of those items, only change the first part of the sentence to read, Today, I… (Today, she/he/ze, Today, you…)– and then the words from your list. Write it out as if it happened, with as much detail as you want. Follow your writing wherever it seems to want to go!

Thank you for the ways you are honest about your okayness — even in the deepest inside places of your own amazing self. Thank you for your words.

using doorways

woman in doorway, hair wrapped, holding bread in her hand, maybe chewingGood morning! Short short post today (since yesterday’s was so long!)– just a prompt and a question:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Question: Where is the femme Stone Butch Blues?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Prompt: Spend a moment or so with the image to the right — notice what questions, what voices, what sounds start to arise as you study this picture. What’s just happened here? What’s about to happen? Do you think there’s a question she’s thinking about? Do you think there’s a question she’s not asking? Take 10 or 15 minutes, and let yourself  begin writing with whatever comes up for you in response to the photo. Follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go! Share any pieces here that you wish, in the comments…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is the prayer I have for today: thank you, thank you, thank you.