Monthly Archives: July 2011

all there is

graffiti from Haight Street -- big-smiling sun!Good morning. Right?

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

At least, when waking up in a panic at 4am, there are foghorns to keep us company. That’s a blessing.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

This morning, Sophie and I are doing some training. She’s learned (because she’s smart) that usually when she gets fed in her crate, it means that she’s going to get left there for awhile. Now she doesn’t want to eat in her crate, because she doesn’t want to get left. This means that she won’t go in even when I’m going to be sticking around (because how does she know the difference?). So we’re practicing — I put the food in the crate and leave the grate open, then leave the room. She’s not yet convinced.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

Last night I got to be with several of my teachers — Renee Garcia, Pat Schneider, Peggy Simmons, Joan Marie Wood, and Mary Tuchscherer. We watched Pat’s film about her workshops with women in Chicopee, MA — Tell me something I can’t forget — and then talked about the Amherst Writers and Artists method, and different ways in which writing can be used as a life-changing, liberatory, transformative practice for folks (for communities!) whose voices, whose stories, have been silenced. Again, I got to be at a seminary and talk about the power of erotic writing. What a gift, the whole night.

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

Off to shower. Taking the pup to the dentist (what?) then heading to the day job.

Thinking about a prompt for today. What about the title of that film: Tell me something I can’t forget. Pat says it’s a line from a Tess Gallagher poem. Either just begin with that line, or go read the poem, and write as you’re inspired by those lines. Give yourself 10 minutes, 15. Tell me something I can’t forget.

I’m grateful for you today, for your practice, your patience, your words and your ears.

you listen

graffiti of a person talking, maybe shouting, hands around their mouth to magnify their wordsGood morning, all!

I’m a bit scattered today — the pup and I were up early, rushing around, getting ready for an appointment that it turns out wasn’t this morning, is scheduled for next Thursday. Now my energy is all twisted up, churned, and I’m trying to get back in focus. Do you ever have mornings like this?

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

Here’s a prompt and a write from last night’s Write Whole workshop. I borrowed a prompt that was offered at the AWA Facilitator’s Training a week or so ago: Write about how to fix something that’s broken. (We took 20 minutes last night; give yourself the time that works for your schedule today, when you write – 10 mins? 30?)

This is what I wrote in response to this prompt:

This is how you fix it: you listen.

You listen.

You listen.

You listen.

You listen.

Listen, then, to your own sharp intake of breath, feel the ache of advice burning your throat, and notice how you are not listening anymore at the moment you are coming up with solutions that no one asked you for, that she didn’t ask you for. Feel yourself swallow the advice, exhale the tension that built in your body when you couldn’t tell her immediately what she should be doing different. Notice, then, how you can relax. Oh, this isn’t my responsibility, you think. Let that fill you, douse your hot veins. Oh, she only asked me to listen.


Understand what kind of work listening is. Listening is not just not talking, listening is also not planning what you’re going to say as soon as she stops to take a breath. Listening isn’t interrupting with scatter clauses of Ok, here’s what you should— wait.

Listening is not making her tell you, again, I don’t want you to fix it. I can fix it. I want you to hear me. I want you to want to hear me.

Listening is more than not talking. Listening is letting all the weight of the words into you, is opening your hands to what’s unholdable, opening your lungs to what’s unbreathable (and yet she holds — yet, she breathes). Listening is a deep and welcoming silence, it’s more than camaraderie — this isn’t about misery loves company. This is work, goddamnit, this is intimate solidarity, this witnessing. This is you shutting up because there are no easy solutions and you offering one up just makes her feel stupid or angry or both —

What she has to offer you is unfixable. There is no fixing the tender brilliance of the story she wants you to hold with her, its claw marks still visible and strange, its head misshapen, chewed on, twisted, it is what it is and it lives in her, holds space behind her heart, between her ribs, under her arms, between her legs; this story is her body, her day, her mind, and you are going to tell her how to fix it? Who do you think you are? Who are you to blaspheme,to run your hard, tossed-off words over this as-yet-unformed thing she is offering?

This is how to listen: Close your mouth. Have no answers. Make eye contact, or don’t. Take deep breaths, especially if she is breathing shallowly. Let yourself be moved, frustrated, uncomfortable. Especially uncomfortable. Understand that there are no easy answers. Understand you can’t fix her. Understand she can. Appreciate this about her. Be overwhelmed by it. Find yourself at a loss for words when, or if, she finally asks what you think she should do. Meet her confusion with your confusion. Have nothing prepared. Be still with the story. Say, I don’t know. What do you think? Listen to how she already has answers — feel pride, amazement, humility, gratitude, and keep listening.

Thank you for your presence with others’ words yesterday, today, tomorrow. Thanks for letting others be present with your words, too.

poem for the day: again a solstice

alice in wonderland with a can of spray paint, over text good morning!

I’m at the cafe, working, studying —

Puppy’s got a touch of the sick,  just a cough —

Apparently, the bordatella vaccination doesn’t necessarily prevent your pup from getting kennel cough. Hm.

It’s enough of a cough that the vet doesn’t want her to be at doggie day care for a bit. Wish us luck, me and the pup — we are in love and also trying not to get on each other’s nerves.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

this poem came through on the poem-a-day email, and offered me a big yes, and so I want to share it with you all, too.

Again a Solstice
by Jennifer Chang

It is not good to think
of everything as a mistake. I asked
for bacon in my sandwich, and then

I asked for more. Mistake.
I told you the truth about my scar:

I did not use a knife. I lied
about what he did to my faith
in loneliness. Both mistakes.

That there is always a you. Mistake.
Faith in loneliness, my mother proclaimed,

is faith in self. My instinct, a poor polaris.
Not a mistake is the blue boredom
of a summer lake. O mud, sun, and algae!

We swim in glittering murk.
I tread, you tread. There are children

testing the deep end, shriek and stroke,
the lifeguard perilously close to diving.
I tried diving once. I dove like a brick.

It was a mistake to ask the $30 prophet
for a $20 prophecy. A mistake to believe.

I was young and broke. I swam
in a stolen reservoir then, not even a lake.
Her prophesy: from my vagrant exertion

I’ll die at 42. Our dog totters across the lake,
kicks the ripple. I tread, you tread.

What does it even mean to write a poem?
It means today
I’m correcting my mistakes.

It means I don’t want to be lonely.

Any of these lines jump out at you as writing sparks or prompts? For me, it’s What does it even mean to write a poem? Give yourself 10 minutes, take a line, dive into your writing…

Thanks for the light you’ll bring into someone’s unwelcome darkness today, and for the shade you’ll offer someone too much in the light. Thanks, always, for your words.


graffiti of a hand, fingers poised to snapGood Thursday morning! It’s cool here so far today — the tea is skullcap & moroccan mint: relax and wake up, I guess.

Sophie has learned a new game that I adore — we got this at puppy school. I put out my hand flat and say “Touch,” and she puts her nose to my hand. She learned this quick, partly, I think, because I am so excited about it, so we practice a lot. When I first watched our teacher demonstrate this trick with her assistant’s dog, I was underwhelmed — So, she touches your hand with her nose. Big deal. It’s not like she’s really doing anything. But then we learned it on the first day of class, and I learned that she is doing something! I can’t stop asking Sophie to touch — it feels like a real connection between us: I ask, and she reaches her neck forward, or looks around for where my hand is, finds where her nose can go, then presses out, reaches for me. She’ll come back to attention, when she’s distracted by smelling for deer, to give me a touch.

What a wonderful thing to teach your pup to do, to get to ask them for, to get to accept from them. When she’s curled up next to the couch and it’s time for bed, she won’t budge (so far) for come, but she came running last night when I asked her to touch!

Getting to ask for touch from someone else (let me move from pups to persons)– this, right here, is a gift anytime we feel it’s a possibility. The touch itself, too, can be precious, but the asking — isn’t that newer for some of us? Something we thought, at one time, we would not ever want to do? Something still difficult to make our mouths form, something risky to put out to another person?

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

This got me thinking about another touch that I’d come across recently, an amazing multimedia piece by Magdalena Donea, Touched, that appeared in the online journal Fray — my friend and colleague Scott Youmans recently introduced me to her work, and I was blown away by the complicated beauty and difficult, deep truth-telling in this layered piece. (Know that this piece deals explicitly with sexual violation, and be easy with you, ok?)

What are the stories we’re not supposed to tell about touch?

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

What does touch mean for you this morning? Are there touches you or your character want to ask for, or want to ask to have stop, or have complicated feelings about? Take 10 minutes today — let that touch come out onto the page, follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thank you for your bravery, the way you allow yourself to accept touch even when you might have decided, once, that the safest thing to do is not to let anyone ever touch you again. You are deeply resilient. Thank you for your words!

passionate reason

pictograph graffiti -- an eye, a heart, and a female sheep (eye love ewe)This morning it’s nice and cool out — I woke up to the commingled sounds of birds waking and foghorns warning. Nice to be in that space between alarm and exuberance.

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

We’ve got a full house for this weekend’s Writing the Flood — that means more opportunities for folks to connect with one another and build writing community. Plus I’ve got all these new workshop ideas after spending a weekend with AWA facilitators. I’m looking forward to Saturday!

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

I believe I have mentioned (can’t stop mentioning) that I’m preparing for to take the GRE on August 1. So I’m re-learning old arithmetic, algebra, geometry formulas (dividing by a fraction or quadratic equation,  anyone? triangle inequality theorem? isosceles triangles? the volume of an irregular quadrilateral?), practicing vocabulary (I’ve recently learned mulct and mountebank) and reminding myself how to write the five-paragraph essay (about which in particular I have a great deal of anxiety — more on that in a minute). I’m doing practice tests and reading practice/prep material, all of which reminds me that the GRE is not a math test, not a vocab or spelling quiz — this is a critical thinking and reasoning assessment. So, in addition to all the rest, I am dusting off my inner skeptic.

I tend to think of myself as relatively un-skeptical — at least,about most topics. Of course, when someone in a position of authority over those with little or no power speaks, my skeptic wakes up. When the president opens hir mouth, my skeptic pays attention. When the mainstream media asserts most anything, I question their declarations. Hm — I even talk back to commercials, refuting their blithe and cheery diatribe whenever possible. So what gave me the idea that I wasn’t skeptical, that I couldn’t find logical flaws in arguments, that I’m not able to think critically?

Here’s what — when someone wants to have a ‘reasonable, measured’ conversation about something I care passionately about, I freeze. Do any of you have this response? Say someone wants to talk calmly (that is, unemotionally) about child sexual abuse in the country. I have to turn off half my brain, half my heart, to talk in an unemotional way about something I have such strong feelings about. And what happens when I enter into the conversation is that I 1) get triggered and shut down and 2) feel a trainwreck of thoughts and ideas piling up inside my throat, unable to all emerge at one time. When did I get the idea that it wasn’t ok to be both emotional and logically reasoned? Well, from Western cultural indoctrination, of course, that pits emotion and logic against each other — and that has equated emotion with womanness and logic with maleness. To be emotional is to be a woman, to make a weaker argument, to be always attenuated. I felt it was inherently impossible for me to engage in these conversations successfully, so I avoided them. This meant, in some cases, that I avoided some important critical thinking about, critical engagement with, issues that are important to me.

I had a great conversation with my friend Chris deLorenzo last week — he’s an AWA workshop facilitator (check out Laguna Writers) who also has taught composition classes to college freshmen. He reminded me of the need to interweave logos and pathos (and ethos) into a good essay — we need both the logical/rational reasoning and the heart-engagement (and we want to create a credible, trustworthy voice in the writing). A piece of writing that’s all logos, all logical reasoning, feels like it has no center, no heart, and is hard to connect with. Writing that’s all pathos ends up feeling sentimental and mushy, like it has no core to hold it up. When we bring them together, however, we provide an emotional connection with information or a new way of thinking, and this brings readers into the work.

So I’m practicing remembering a couple of things: first, that I know how to do this, and second, that I can slow down and still have room, time and space, to present my argument. There’s no stepfather here to interrupt and move the goalposts halfway through the writing, changing the terms of the discussion so that it’s impossible for me to engage consistently. I remind myself that heart and passion in writing, even in essay and nonfiction, isn’t just a good thing — it’s necessary. And I remind myself that I have the capacity to think and engage both open-heartedly and critically. We each do.

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

Is there a topic that you find it hard to write or talk about because there’s so much you want to say and it gets jumbled inside your mouth or about which your mind goes blank when you’re asked to speak ‘rationally’ about it? Want to take a few minutes today for that topic? Maybe it’s the rights of animals or child trafficking or rape laws or gun ownership or environmental protection or… just notice what comes up for you. Give that subject 10 minutes today — take a few deep breaths, and write down what you believe. Then write down why.

Thanks for your heart-centeredness, your passionate reason, your thoughtful, though-out exhuberance, your creative acts, your compassionate logic — thank you for your patience with others, and thank you for your words.

slippery encapsulants

graffiti of a tree with purple bulbs-bubbles as leaves!Hello my friends!

Just a quick note — these posts might be a bit erratic/brief over the next couple weeks, as I get down to the wire for GRE prep. Yowza. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me, ok?

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

Also, this weekend brings this month’s Writing the Flood session — registration is just about full, but there are still a couple spaces left. Will you be able to join us?

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~
This weekend I went out to Alamo, CA to assist with the AWA Facilitator/Leadership Training — it was my first time acting as an assistant trainer, and I’m so grateful to have been able to be there. I got to work with 13 women (11 trainees plus two amazing trainers, Jan Haag and Mary Tuchscherer, both of whom I feel so lucky to have trained with!). I want to tell you about the vision, the passion, each of these 13 women carry for the power of words, the power of language and writing to transform and open. I got to spend about an hour on Friday night, talking about my roots in this work, pontificating about why I think this work is so important, why this method works so well for survivors of sexual trauma and folks who want to write about sex, for anyone who wants to tell difficult, intimate, tender stories. I can start to proselytize — thank goodness we moved into an erotic writing exercise.

Here’s what I wrote, using this line from Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Two Countries“: “Skin had hope, that’s what skin does.” It was a short write, just five minutes.

Skin had hope — cunts have hope. They’re just part of these portable bodies, aren’t they, just small gloves, slippery encapsulants, contained amongst themselves, they are our blood and flesh of hope, they are our most resilient hagiographies — they write us throbbing, they wake us into possibility each time they press us open, even with nobody else’s help — sometimes with the wrong somebody else’s help. They don’t know the nature of the pressure, who’s behind that finger, that breath on the neck, that knee between thighs;

Cunts are our ever-present resiliency. They keep on waking — it’s what they know, isn’t it, their one recursive, incipient thought, this inchoate hope that doesn’t have to have a glove to flow into but that shines like morning in us even when we’re aching and ashamed: cunts hold hope for us — that’s their lovely, lonely job.

thanks for your work, your words, your love in this world.


graffiti of a hand bearing such words as "courage, believe, grow, imagine, respcet..."This morning I’m headed out to the Amherst Writers and Artists Facilitator Training — the trainees have been gathered for several days already, learning the basics of the method and beginning to push into themselves to find out why they want to do this work. I’ll get to help out with the practice groups, when the fledgling facilitators lead an exercise for the first time using the method, with other trainees & instructors as the writers. I can’t wait.

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

Thank you so very much to everyone who donated to my fundraising effort, raising money to attend the Tomales Bay Workshops this October. You all helped me to raise 3/4 of the tuition — that’s absolutely amazing, and I am deeply grateful.

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

There was something else I wanted to tell you about this morning — on our walk there was a skunk with tail up, running under an SUV. Sophie and I took off in the other direction. Also, a grey heron down by the shore. Last night, the Mr and I watched Silkwood, and after it was over, I didn’t really want to go out into the dark and take Sophie for her bedtime walk: everything felt tainted and threatening.

There’s not time right now, to remember what it was. Time to shower, drive out to the country to commune with writing group energy. I get to share a bunch of my favorite exercises.

This could be a prompt for today: Write what you forgot. Take 10 minutes, notice whatever comes up when you read that sentence, and just before you get in the shower, or over a coffee or lunch break today, write.

Thanks for your persistence, the way you hold space for what has taken leave, taken a break, gone into retreat or hibernation, to reemerge. Thanks for your creative generosity. Thank you for your words.

the meeting

graffiti of an outline of a deer with a heart inside, and the words: The stars were shining brightGood morning! How is the morning where you are today?

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

My friends, today is the last day that I’m raising money for the Tomales Bay Workshops — I just have a little under $500 left to raise! The final payment is due today, and if you can contribute anything, I would be tremendously grateful. Every bit helps — I’ve watched these donations of $10 and $20 and $50 add up to meaning I can make it to study with Dorothy Allison in October. I’ll be sharing the writing that I do there with everyone who donates.

It’s such a strange thing to ask for help this way, and I’m humbled and so moved that as I’ve done so, I’ve been met with hands reaching back, offering help and encouragement. That’s a Very Big Deal. Thank you so much.

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

The last 12 hours around here have been filled up with wildlife (and I’m not just talking about the frantic energy that’s rising up in me the closer I get to gre test day on 8/1): last night, just at dusk, there was a huge owl sitting at the top of the small tree just up the hill outside our kichen window. She looked like a cat sitting there, with her strong round body and pointy ears. The other small birds of the neighborhood weren’t happy to have her around and kept flying at and around her.

This morning, just after I’d liberated Sophie from the stick that’s too big for her to carry around but that she still wanted to prance with while hunting for a place to poop, a hummingbird zoomed in and over the spot where I’d tossed the stick. She hovered for a moment, like she thought there was new sweetness that had moved into the area, but then she flew on.

And then — and then and then. On our walk, as we were coming back down the road that takes us up to the houses with the unobstructed views of San Francisco, the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge… we passed a couple of deer up on the hillside. They’d been there on our way up the road, but Sophie hadn’t noticed them. This time, she did, and so, naturally, she started to whine and bark. I encouraged us on, pulling a little at Sophie, who was intent on watching and tallking to the deer. One of the deer followed us. At first, I thought she was just trying to move out of the way, away from us. Then, as she kept being right there to our right, I thought maybe she was headed to her babies, was distracting us from them, wanted to keep them safe. But I didn’t see the fawns anywhere — were they hidden in this brush? No, the deer has passed through the brush and is still keeping pace with us. What’s happening? It’s 6:30 in the morning, my dog has a good strong bark that she’s sharing with all of our fancy neighbors, and the deer that the dog is going crazy over wants to check us out.

She came out into the road, the deer did, and started to follow us on the asphalt.

So, finally, I just stopped. I asked Sophie to sit, rewarded her when she would stop barking and respond to my requests for quiet, and made eye contact with the deer. She moved closer. Her eyes were big and black, and she had slight lashes brushing out just at the outer edges. Her body was full and round; she looked well fed — and she seemed curious about us.

I think I mentioned, a couple days ago, about the ticks that we’d found on Sophie. Have I mentioned my lifelong fear of ticks? First, when I was a child, they carried Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (I was told) and so every time I went anywhere near a forest or copse of trees, I wore a bandana, terrified that one would drop down on my head. Now it’s Lyme Disease we have to be afraid of, and so I put poison on my dog and I wear long pants when we go hiking, and I stay away from the deer that ticks seem to love so much.

Now here’s a deer wanting to come right up and say hello.

I was very tempted to let them get closer, although I was sure that Sophie wouldn’t behave. I was also nervous — what’s going on with this deer that it’s comfortable getting so close to a human and a dog? Is she angry? Is she sick? So I said, No. I stomped my feet a couple of times. She didn’t really back off, but stopped and waited, and we all watched each other for a little bit. Even with Sophie’s barking (although the pup did calm down some, could sit and look at this maybe-friend), the deer didn’t run away. The only thing that got her to move was a car that started to pull out of the driveway she was standing just in front of. The car drove between her and us, and after it passed, she didn’t come back close again.

I’m afraid that I missed an opportunity for some multi-layered cross-species friend-making, that I gave in to my fear of insects and unusual animal behavior. I’m grateful, though, for her bravery and curiosity. I’m carrying her eyes in my chest today, the glinty look, how she raised her small front hoof and set it back down, making a little sharp noise on the asphalt, standing still, watching us.

I hope we see her again.

Be easy with anything unusual that comes your way today, maybe. And don’t forget to write it down. Thanks for your words.

take it again

graffiti of a red curlie-que question markYou were in my dreams last night, weren’t you? What were we doing there? I’m so glad we were together.

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

Sophie is eating part of her breakfast from a gourd-shaped Kong; it’s hollow on the inside, with the neck open to dispense and receive treats, and a cut-out on one side and on the bottom. I could watch her with this process all day; she learned quickly that if she up-righted the Kong, food shows up at the bottom, so she pulls it up like a lever. Smart girl.

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

Yesterday, I got to spend some time with Sharon Bray’s Writing as a Healing Ministry class at Pacific School of Religion. These are intrepid folks; they’re spending a week going deep into all the different ways of using writing as a healing or stewarding process for others and/or themselves, and this means, too, that they’re spending a week exploring their own motives, fears, longings, work. Then they’re going to take this learning, this longing and work, back into their communities, and hold spaces for the sort of deep change that a writing process can allow for.

I want to tell you a bit about some of the questions they asked, and maybe think a bit more about my answers, but right now, Sophie is alarmed by the noises coming from the driveway, and I need to go introduce her to the garbage truck. More about this soon (the questions, not the truck).

Here’s an invitation to write, though: Has someone asked you about something recently that you didn’t have the time you really wanted or needed to respond to in full? Or maybe you answered quickly and honestly, but there’s a lot more to the answer that you gave. Think about that for a seond, jot down one or more questions/situations/conversations that you wish you’d had more time for, and then choose one and give yourself 10 minutes with it. What do you wish you had said? What else was there to offer? Get complicated with it; no one will interrupt you now.

Thanks for your work in this world. Thanks for your generosity and heart. Thanks, yes, for your words.

Jaycee and the rest of us

bright purple graffiti of the word LIBERATEThis morning it’s quiet and grey, except for the birds, who are forever providing exception. Last night was some excitement at 11am with two red ticks making their slow, deliberate way through Sophie’s short fur. This will be the one time I praise pesticides, and am grateful for the tick repellent we apply to her neck every month, the stuff that may have kept the ticks from anchoring. Do I know what the pesticide is doing to my pup, to her nerves, to her behavior? I don’t. I trust the manufacturer, which is rarely a wise idea to do implicitly. I weigh the benefits of this poison against the damage that the tick’s poison could do: what a calculation.

Today, Sophie gets to visit doggie day care for the first time — this is the day care’s test run. Wish her heart (and mine) good luck as mama drops her baby off for her first day alone.

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

This morning I get to spend a half-hour with Sharon Bray‘s Writing as a Healing Ministry class at PSR; I want to talk about communal freewriting as liberatory practice, for trauma survivors, yes, and for all of us. Sharon gathers up folks who want to lead writing workshops in their faith or other communities and, in a week-long intensive, presents them with many different workshop models, from AWA to poetry therapy and more. Participants do lots of their own writing and exploring, and get to meet facilitators who are out in the world already doing the work. The class sounds like a fabulous opportunity, and she teaches it every year during PSR’s summer session! Check them out!

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

The latest People magazine has another cover story about Jaycee Dugard (don’t worry; the link doesn’t take you to the People site, but to HuffPo); the last time I bought People off the rack was when Jaycee had just been found (after a guard on the UC Berkeley Campus saw something odd, took her and her children aside, away from the man who’d held her captive for 18 years, and asked her what was up) and People offered maybe an exclusive about the immediate aftermath as Jaycee returned to the world.

I’m fascinated by Jaycee’s story — there’s a way in which I resonate with her experience, in the sense that she grew up through pre-adolescence and into early adulthood, under the control of a sexual abuser. She was kidnapped at 11, taken from her family, kept by a man and woman, raped and sexually abused for years. She gave birth to two children. This is barely surface; what I’ve just written hardly tells you anything about her. It’s a character sketch, plot details, scratch marks on her face. This isn’t a story.

I would dearly love to write with Jaycee in a workshop. She’s written or co-written a book about her experiences, and I’ll read it, of course, and I’ll also wonder how much more of her story there is to tell. What lives inside and underneath the stories the media and mainstream public all expect/want to hear.

The other thing that fascinates me, though, is the media/public’s engagement with the story of Jaycee Dugard. Here’s one story of child abduction and abuse that’s blown up and given massive mainstream coverage. This is not to undermine in any way the horror that Jaycee went through, but I have this question: Isn’t it true that we are so (encouraged to be) engaged with this story because Jaycee was abducted by strangers, at a bus stop. Her story is safe to publicize, and safe for us as a public to be openly horrified over, because it doesn’t challenge the story that we tell ourselves that children are harmed by those outside the family — any harm that comes to children in the family has to do with parenting differences, the rights of parents to discipline; perhaps the child had it coming, after all. After a story like Jaycee’s, we soothe ourselves by saying that we’ll watch our children closer  and keep them close to home, where they will be safe from the monsters. Our mainstream narrative (and the lies as well) are kept safe.

I want to tell you that I know hundreds of people who were held captive and abused — but not by strangers. These are people kept in their homes, who didn’t have the fantasy, the luxury, of imagining what it will be like when they can see their parents and be safe at home again. These are people who grew up living in two worlds, just like Jaycee, who were beaten and/or tortured; some bore children. Some have scars. The scars on others are invisible. These folks are also telling, also writing, their stories, they are exposing deep truths about our society’s commitment to ‘family values’ — and they will never be seen being interviewed by Diane Sawyer.  Why aren’t we also publicizing these stories? Why don’t these folks have time in Time magazine? (It’s too common, someone might say — everyday, common-place activities, like the rape of kids by parents, that’s not news.)

Jaycee’s story should be publicized — and so, too, should the rest of our stories. In combination, we would show (wouldn’t we?) the lie that is America’s self-soothing story about protecting the children. We would tear the story open, and in that raw aftermath, we would make way for something new to be born.

I want our societal story about rape and sexual violence to shift away from this focus on the monsters outside; I want us to open up the searchlight and see all the harm, all the monsters (who, in the end, look most often like regular people — that’s the most terrifying thing). I want us to have deeper conversations about who is safe, and where, and when. About what protection and accountability look like. About how to move, work, stretch, create, grow into a society that doesn’t feed on its youth.

Take 10 minutes for you today, to write or walk or breathe. Know that your story is important. Understand that your tellings are a part of this new narrative that we’re all working on together — your piece is necessary. Thank you for writing, and for sharing it.