Monthly Archives: December 2011

looking back at self care

graffiti of a sacred heart with the words "+ amor" withinMornings sometimes are quiet, sometimes grey — but the noise inside the head can be a clamor anyway, can’t it? Outside I can hear the dripping of the rain. No owls out there that I can hear.

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

There’s lots coming up, workshop-wise, at the beginning of 2012 — our survivors workshop  (Write Whole) begins in early Jan, and, too, I’ll be starting my new project/manuscript-focused group, Dive Deep! At the end of January, the Bayview Writers workshops will begin up in Marin, and on the first Saturday in February, you can join us for the first of this coming year’s ten Declaring Our Erotic Saturday Retreats. I’ll also be offering an online erotic writing workshop through the Transformative Language Arts Network (watch their website to learn more and to register). And, of course, there’s Writing the Flood every third Saturday — come dip your toes into the water or write all the way into the waves.


I’m looking forward to all these different opportunities to write with you! Please let me know if you’d like to join us for some writing, or if you just want more information about any of the offerings.

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

As it’s getting towards the end of the year (let’s not just now get into exactly how close to the end of the year), I’m thinking about the commitment I made at the beginning of 2011 to make this a year of relearning how to be in my body, getting more dedicated to my creative life, and practice radical self care. I had a vision of pulling together my “team” of helpers — doctor, therapist, yoga instructor, acupuncturist, writing teacher, masseuse (perhaps I also planned to win the lottery) — each of whom would work with me in my project to know and be in my body more fully, to release old trauma and tension and sorrow. I wouldn’t be as alone in the work (this inner work) anymore — I’d externalize more of it. I’d let people help, let people teach me, let myself learn and unlearn, unfurl, grow.

From here at my chilly little candle-lit desk, I feel that I did not accomplish this task. Where’s my team?

But let’s look more closely:

– several months working with somatic therapists at the beginning of the year

– appointments with my primary care doctor at Kaiser for not just routine checkups but bloodwork and even a couple of visits for things I was worried about but couldn’t explain. I have very infrequently allowed myself to call the doctor when I hurt — but oh, look: she can be helpful!

– left somatic therapy when that particular practitioner didn’t fit for me (that’s radical self care! usually I stay for years).

– puppy. enough said about the radical self-care implications there.

– writing every morning, putting what I love first in the day.

– finding this weird and welcoming church community, and finding some comfort and engagement with spiritual direction.

– after researching for over a year and finally talking with a good friend, I made an appointment with a Jungian analyst and am beginning to dive into dreams and patterns and hard, good questions.

– here in the last several months, I’ve had lots of coffee-dates and get togethers with friends. this is (re)new(ed) practice, and is deep self care, and I’m feeling very grateful for the folks both here in CA and out East who hold me when I’m falling apart, who let me hold them.

-I did get one massage here a couple of weeks ago, and some sessions of acupuncture (finally) here at the closing of the year.

There were lots of writing workshops, as I go back through the blog posts of this year, a training or two, chances to talk about writing ourselves whole and the transformative/liberatory uses of writing practice, and then there was Tomales Bay.

But these listed above, they were the things that went differently. There’s been a whole lot of disassembling, maybe helped along by these new practices, by risking the reaching out, the asking for help: that means crashing an arm through the ego’s facade and hoping someone will clasp it even though I’m a bloody mess. And here’s the truth, over and over: people take my hand. I’m not alone here.

I’m frustrated with myself for not signing up for a dance class, yoga, zumba, something ridiculous, something fun — always reasons not to do the thing we’re most drawn to. Not enough money, not enough time. But there’s always time for more work, isn’t there? Up to and until we hit the wall because we’ve expended too much energy and not spent enough time refilling the well. It’s possible I went dancing only one time this year. Here’s an activity that brings me fully into my body, utterly, and I don’t give it to myself but once or twice a year?

Ok — let’s not berate the self. Let’s just try something else, and soon. Fun feels like a necessity in the new year.

I’m turning forty this coming year. There’re gonna be some changes around here.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~
Want to spend a little time writing about the ways you’ve taken care of you this year? (Or ways that your character has been taking care of themselves?) These can be big or small things — eating a little bit or a lot better, having more fun, more sex, less fun, less sex, whatever ‘radical self care’ has looked like for you. Give yourself 10 minutes, stretch it into 15 if you really get going. And praise yourself, as you’re writing, for the good work you’ve done.

Thanks for all the ways, all the ways, you take care of you, that you hold others, that you let your hands do the gorgeous work they were meant for. Thanks for your healing. Thanks for your words.

Winter 2012 Workshops — Here’s what’s coming up!

The new year is the time for a new dedication to your writing practice — and we’ve got a whole host of offerings, beginning in January and February, one of which might be just right for you or someone you love!

Please pass the word, and let me know if you’d like to join us! I’m looking forward to writing with you —

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

Write Whole: Survivors Write

SF-based 8-week workshop for women who are survivors of sexual trauma or sexual violence

Winter ’12 Workshop begins Monday, January 16

Meets 8 Monday evenings, 6:00-8:30pm.

This workshop is open to all women survivors of sexual trauma.

Gather with other women survivors of sexual trauma in this workshop, and write in response to exercises chosen to elicit deep-heart writing, and deal with such subjects as: body image, family/community, sexuality, dreams, love, faith, and more. You’ll be encouraged to trust the flow of your own writing, and receive immediate feedback about the power of your words!

8-week workshop fees: The fee for an 8-week session is $350. (I can generally work out payment plans; please contact me if you have question or concerns about payment.) There is a reduced-rate early bird fee of $315 if you register by  December 20. The regular registration fee will be in effect through January 1, 2012. The late registration fee is $385; last day to register is January 9. Please register early!

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

Bayview Writers

A new and supportive writing workshop for Marin.

Tuesday mornings in Tiburon beginning 1/31: 10am-1pm (women’s group);

Wednesday evenings in San Rafael beginning 2/1: 6-9pm  (open to all writers)

Make a commitment to your writing in 2012!

New writing group forming: Bayview Writers is open to all writers seeking a fun, generous and supportive atmosphere in which to create powerful new writing. Using the Amherst Writers and Artists workshop method, we write together in response to exercises designed to spark your creative imagination. Whether you’re in the middle of a larger project, beginning something new, or going through a time of ‘writer’s block,’ this workshop is for anyone looking to connect with their writing, regardless of experience level. Connect with other local writers and release the words that you’ve been longing to write.

The fee for an 9-week session is $425. There is a reduced-rate early bird fee of $380 if you register by  November 23. The regular registration fee will be in effect through January 1, 2012. The late registration fee is $465; last day to register is January 6. Please register early!

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

Dive Deep
An advanced, project/manuscript-centered working group

Inaugural group meets January 5, 2o12!

This workgroup is designed for those who have delved into  (or are ready to commit to) the deep dive of a large* writing project:

  • a novel;
  • poetry, story or essay collection;
  • play or screenplay;
  • daily blogging;
  • preparing work for publication;
  • or any other long-term writing project.

Though writing is a solitary pursuit, no writer has ever completed a long work alone!

Divers will meet three times per month for writing exercises, project check-in and accountability, manuscript feedback, coaching and peer support. This group can help you meet your writing goal, and provide community and encouragement as you go deep into a writing project. This is necessary work you’re doing: give yourself all the tools and support you need.

Workshop fees: This is an ongoing group; the fee is $200/month, with a three-month initial commitment required; the group will remain closed for three-month cycles, then will open at the end of those cycles for the possible addition of new members. Dive Deep is limited to 6 members at a time. Please contact me to register!

* “large” is relative — whatever your writing project is, if you want support and accountability and regular connection around that work, we would love to have you!

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

Declaring Our Erotic

A monthly erotic writing retreat open to all

I’ve reformatted this workshop from an 8-week series to 10 Saturday writing retreats! Each month, come together with a fun, powerful, and supportive group of writers to dive into some sexy and surprising new writing! We will work with a theme every month, and you will be invited to write into the ideas that theme inspires in you, or you are welcome to use the workshop retreat time to do whatever writing is most pressing for you.

In DOE writing groups, we write in response to exercises that bring up different aspects of our erotic, sexual and sensual selves, in a safe and confidential group of peers. This workshop is designed to leave you more confident with sexual language, erotic expression, and your own writing practice. You’ll receive immediate and concrete feedback about what’s already working (and hot!) in your writing, and will leave with several new pieces of work.

Previous participants have found the group to be transformative, feeling that the work they’ve done has opened up and changed not only their relationship with their erotic selves, but with many other aspects of their lives as well.

Unless otherwise noted, this workshop meets on the third Saturday of the month, 10am-5:00pm. Light lunch provided. Limited to 12. Fee for Declaring Our Erotic Saturday retreat is $100 (with a sliding scale). Please contact me to register!

Early 2012 retreat dates — mark your calendars!:

Saturday, February 5, 2012: New Beginnings
Saturday, March 3, 2012: Writing the Body (and Jen’s 40th birthday!)
Saturday, April 7, 2012:  Edging into Fantasy

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

Writing the Flood

Every third Saturday, 1-4:30pm
(unless otherwise noted)

The first Writing the Flood of 2012 meets on 1/21

Writing The Flood is a writing group for anyone looking to prime the writing pump: using the Amherst Writers and Artists method, we will write together in response to exercises designed to get those pens moving, and get onto the page the stories, poems, essays, images and voices that have been stuck inside for too long.  This is a time to work on a larger project, get started on new work, play on the page, or write yourself through a block and back into your writing voice.
Unless otherwise noted, this workshop meets on the third Saturday of the month. $50 (with a sliding scale) Limited to 12. Please contact me to register.

Early 2012 Writing the Flood dates — mark your calendars now!

  • Saturday, January 21, 2012
  • Saturday, February 18, 2012
  • Saturday, March 17

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

The Erotic Reading Circle

Every fourth Wednesday at the Center for Sex and Culture, 7:30-9:30pm

suggested donation: $5+

Since 2006, we’ve been meeting on the fourth Wednesday of the month to share and celebrate the breadth of erotic artistry in the Bay Area! The next Erotic Reading Circle meets on September 28, 7:30-9:30 at the Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission Street, San Francisco (cross streets 9th and 10th). $5+ donation requested (no one turned away); donations support the Center for Sex and Culture. This month’s circle will be a collaborative effort with the Sex Worker’s Arts Festival events at the CSC!

Bring whatever you’re working on, or whatever you’d like to be working on.

Come join readers and share your erotic writing! Bring something to read or just be part of the appreciative circle of listeners. This is a great place to try out new work (ask for comments if you like), or get more comfortable reading for other people. Longtime writers will bring their latest… newly inspired writers, bring that vignette you scrawled on BART while daydreaming on your way to work. Carol Queen and Jen Cross host/facilitate this space dedicated to erotic writers and readers. No registration necessary — just drop in!

Upcoming dates for the ERC:

  • Wednesday, December 28, 2011
  • Wednesday, January 25
  • Wednesday, February 22

See you at the Circle!

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

puppy gratitude

sophie on the deck

I started this on Sunday, but didn’t finish — so here we go!

Good morning good morning. How are you morning-ing so far this day?

Right next to me, sprawled out on the carpet, the puppy is gnawing on a rubber ball, sending a wet squeakiness into my morning quiet. It’s pretty great. She’s got her face right near the heater vent, maybe unintentionally — but as soon as it kicks on, she’ll get the first warmth.

According to the dates on the paperwork from the vet, Sophie was a year old this past Saturday, on Dec 10. A year! Happy birthday, Sophie Star Cross White!

I haven’t done a puppy post in awhile. Two things happened recently that reminded me to reflect on how far we’ve come, this little family that Sophie found.

First, the other day, the Mr came home to find Sophie was right there, all waggy and excited, to greet him at the door — now, when he left earlier that day, she was safely ensconced in her crate, just where I’d put her for her breakfast, with the door locked. So it was a bit of a surprise for him that she was both not in the crate and that the crate door was still locked. That morning, I’d only locked the bottom of the two slide-locks on the crate door, not knowing that the Mr was heading out right away. Sophie has Houdini-ed out of the crate before when only the bottom lock was closed — I don’t know how she does it — so this wasn’t without precedent.  Still, she’d been alone for quite a few hours — the longest, in fact, that she’d been alone in the house not in the crate.

And she’d done no damage anywhere.

I couldn’t stop celebrating. Our girl is big, now, and can stay by herself out of the crate. So on Sunday we left her for a couple of hours alone in the office, which attaches to a deck, the deck that gets the most sunshine. We left the deck door open, so she could go in and out. She scratched a little at the door as we were leaving, but then she came out to the deck and watched us go. I scrunched my hands up against my mouth, watching her back, and felt proud and sad and worried — would she cry or bark? She just watched. Then when we returned she was right there, heard the car, her whole body wagging at the sight of us.

(Now Sophie wants to play with the puppy in the mirror. She paws at the mirror, gives a little cry. Why won’t you play?)

graffiti of a yellow star containing a fist and a dog pawThe second thing that happened is that our neighbors recently adopted a new puppy from a shelter — she’s just under a year, fluffy and adorable, maybe a lab-golden mix. My neighbors are good and gentle with her, and they’re terribly worried. The puppy does some submissive urination (which is, of course, no concern much at all, at least to outsider-me, and at least when I meet the puppy in the driveway and not in the neighbors’ front hall) and she’s chewing on their leash sometimes and she’s still getting her bearings. What I see when I meet this dog is a very happy pup, scared some, figuring out where she’s come to — and, too, I see her parents who care very much about her, walking her in the frosted early quiet, teaching her a sit-stay over by the sheltered side of the building (where all the plants have been tramped away by dogs), keeping her protected until she has the all-clear from the vet to meet other dogs. What they mention, when we talk about how she’s doing, though, is what’s going wrong, how she needs to improve.

And I remember feeling that way after Sophie came home with us — someone would tell us that she was doing great, and I’d think, Oh, really? Have you seen her lose her mind when she’s near another dog — like she wants to have it for dinner? Or how she eats so fast she throws up? Or how she doesn’t come when called? Or how she chokes herself pulling at the leash? I didn’t have any perspective — how could I? Here was this enormous change that I’d brought into all of our lives — mine, the Mr’s, this little puppy — and all I wanted was not to fuck it up. I desperately wanted not to fuck it up. And now she’s been with us almost 7 months, and I can’t quite remember what it was like before she was here.

My neighbor asked how long it took for me to feel comfortable, or settled, with Sophie, I told her that for the better part of the first month, I hardly slept and was afraid we’d made the worst decision ever. But then it got better. She didn’t look terribly relieved at this — oh, no, a month?? — but as I was saying it, I remembered how bad I felt, how deeply scared, how certain I was that I wasn’t up to this dog-companioning, and from this new perspective, borne of time and work and patience, I was able to see how much more comfortable and pleased I feel now, how much I love this pup, how grateful I am for her and for how we three have been able to work together.

On Sunday, Sophie and I went to a field near the dog park in Sausalito. It was in the 40s, we were bundled up (no, only I was bundled — she was licking and slipping on the grass, still learning about this frost stuff) and she bounded off to play with another dog who wanted to get her ball. I talked with a couple of other owners, who were impressed with Sophie’s training, and were also able to give me some good advice about the fact that she barked at a dog who wanted to get her ball (“it’s good she barks,” they said — “better for her to warn than to just lash out!”) and I could relax just a little bit more. She started playing too rough with another dog, and then came easy when I called her. Another dog got her ball, and she just looked kind of confused — like, where’d it go? Oh, there! Wait, didn’t I have a ball? — but didn’t get crazy or upset. She was happier, though, when the other dog’s owner got her ball back for her. She made friends, and I felt proud of her, of us. I hope she feels her version of proud or comfortable with me, with us, too.

It reminds me of how much work just happens with and over time, and how infrequently I stop and reflect — and how important that reflection and gratitude is. See how far we’ve come? It used to feel like this — and now it’s shifted. Even if only slightly sometimes, it’s shifted.

An idea for a prompt for today might be to look back on this year and write about something you (or your character/s) have been doing or learning, work you’ve been engaged in, maybe personal transformative work, maybe craft, maybe you’re building something new — maybe you (or they, those characters) have found yourself plunged into something, and haven’t been sure how to swim. Think back in your writing — how was this process for you when you began? How did you feel when you began the process? What were you afraid of, or certain would never come to pass? How does that compare to how you feel/work/experience things now?

Thanks for your patience for yourself, for the ways you take deep breaths and wait and trust in time, even when it feels like you’re doing the opposite. Thanks for your care and concern for those parts of yourself that are growing and learning. Thanks, every day, for your words.

without knowing what will arise in its place

stencil graffiti: I can taste your dreamsgood morning good morning from the chilliness. I was not up nearly as early this morning as I was yesterday, and that’s all right. I did wake up with a bit more motivation and energy than I’ve had in a few days, and that feels good. I have come to trust and lean-into the sinking-down that happens for me in December; I get quiet, move more slowly, read a lot more.

A year ago, today, I wrote here in this blog:

I didn’t let you help, not then, and I’m sorry. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that, these 15 and 20 years later: how to lean, how to say, Yes, I’m not ok. Yes, I need you. Please, I need help.

and then

After the arrest, my mom wasn’t legally allowed to contact me or my sister for about six months or something. She had to sell the house during that time; she didn’t know what to do with our things up in the attic — most of it, she got rid of. All the papers and things I’d saved from jr high and high school: gone. I save things so that I can keep my memory. And that’s why I wrote, too, for years: so there would be an external(ized) memory. What to hold on to? What to release? What to take back in?

It’s fascinating, painful and also connecting, to go back a year and find that I was tackling then what I’m still tangled up in now: how to honestly reach out to friends and those who love me and who I love, how to be vulnerable with them, risk connection, risk being all of myself and trusting that they won’t turn away (trusting, too, that if they do turn away, that I’ll be all right). And that part about letting go. Not a single step, a single action, is it? Another (goddamn) process. Whew.

I have been thinking again about survivor identity, and how to let it shift — even, maybe, how to put it down. I’ve written about this before, I know, and probably will again: how survivor has been a core identity for me, first before anything (before woman, before queer, maybe even before writer) and how I’m not sure who I am or could be without that badge on my chest. There’s the sense I have of lying if I don’t say it, passing as something I’m not — and what is that something? Normal? Even though I know, intellectually, that the vast majority of women, maybe the majority of folks of all genders, have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lives — still, that fact, that experience, doesn’t (normally) enter into regular everyday conversation, does it? It’s one of the things we smooth over, don’t mention, don’t bring up, so that we can move through the work of the day. That elision is a part of the lubrication necessary to most social interactions.

You could say that I just need to change the whos and wheres of my social interactions. It’s true that there are some communities where folks talk about the realities of sexual violence and other forms of oppression as a part of everyday conversation — and that those conversations aren’t downers, necessarily, they’re just a sharing of the realities of our lives. I’m talking about communities (of friends, let’s say) where we can be all of who we are — survivors, yes, and writers, too, and gardeners and potters and funny and great cooks and bookmakers and clothes-artists and candle-light writers and cat lovers and parents and lovers and fucked up and silly and and and… where survivor doesn’t have to be a brand or a shield or a badge anymore. Where it doesn’t have to be the only lens to see the world through. Where we can trust others to look through that lens sometimes, so that we can look through another lens.

Those communities exist. I am finding them. But, more, I’m letting myself out into them.

There’s another piece, too, about shifting the whys of writing: writing for more than just an externalized memory, a declaration of old story, a litany. Writing to create something new. What about that?

Here’s some of what she says about survivor identity in Women Who Run With The Wolves:

Once the threat is past, there is a potential trap in calling ourselves by names taken on during the most terrible times of our lives. it creates a mind-set that is potentially limiting. It is not good to base the soul identity solely on the feats and losses and victories of the bad times. While survivorship can make a woman tough as beef jerky, at some point it begins to inhibit new development.

When a woman insists “i am a survivor over and over again once the time for its usefulness is past, the work head is clear. we must looen the person’s clutch on the survivor archetype. Otherwise nothing else can grow. I liken it to a tough little plant that managed–without water, sunlight, nutrients–to send out a brave and ornery little leaf anyway. In spite of it all.

But thriving means, now that the bad times are behind, to put ourselves into occasions of the lush, the nutritive, the light, and there to flourish, to thrive with bushy, shaggy, heavy blossoms and leaves. it is better to name ourselves names that challenge us to grow as free creatures.

(page 197, 1992 edition, emphasis mine.)

Once the time for its usefulness is past. Only each of us can know when that’s true for different parts of our own survivorship — when is a good time to set that banner down or just let it rest on our side for awhile, not releasing it forever, because it saved us, that sense of ourselves, claiming the power of survivor. But there comes a time (doesn’t there) when it’s ok to set it down without knowing what will arise in its place.

(I myself am a little weary of the survivor-to-thriver language — maybe the easy rhyme just gets on my nerves. I do like this language of “put[ing] ourselves into occasions of the lush” — yes, please.)

What about this for a write for today: both what “survivor” means or has meant for you/your character in your life, and, too, what it could mean to put yourself or your character “into occasions of the lush.” 10 minutes (or more, if you want!) — and follow the words wherever they seem to be pulling you.

Be easy in your writing today. Thanks for your shifting over time, the way you make space for yourself and others to grow. Thanks for how you are easy with others as they change, how you allow others to be easy with you, too. Thanks, yes, for your words.

they are protecting power

Good morning, good morning. Here it’s five am, the heater is trying to warm the little office, the quiet is pervasive. I’ve been awake since 3, but only writing since 3.30. A full hour-plus of notebook time feels like a luxury. It is a luxury. I sit with that knowledge.

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

Have you seen this week’s SF Weekly? The cover story is about police officers who abuse, molest, rape, and otherwise take advantage of young folks who are participating in the Boy Scouts’ Explorers program. I saw the headline (“Hands-on Experience” (because this story warrants punning for sure) — with a drawing of a cop wearing mirrored shades looking out toward the viewer, his hand on the thigh of a profoundly-uncomfortable young teenage girl wearing in a Boy Scouts’ uniform), felt disgusted with the cover & headline, took the paper anyway. I opened to the story, got through a couple of paragraphs, and then threw the paper down on the seat next to me. Do I really need to read more of this? I asked myself. Then, after a few minutes, I picked the paper back up. What are these kids’ stories? Who’s listening to them? During the long shuttle ride from the UCSF Parnassus campus down to Mission Bay, I did that several times, deciding to give myself a break from this bullshit, and then feeling drawn back to the story, the reporting — yes, yes, like feeling drawn back to looking at a car wreck. What happened there? The language used in the piece made me cringe — a couple of girls described in Lolita-esque tones, asking for it, several situations described vaguely enough that one might come away with the idea that the kids involved were not only consenting participants to the assaults of multiple uniformed police officers, but instigators.

I participated in the Explorer program back in Nebraska, only not with a police department. Instead, I went onto Offut Air Force Base and learned how to program in Ada — we were the Computer Programming Explorers. No ride alongs. No one-on-one time with the men charged with teaching and guiding us. We were always a group on the weekend afternoons when we met (Is that true? I’m remembering other kids in the program, but also remembering working alone with a lieutenant. Anyway, all I learned was Ada, and some of the intricacies of getting permission to come onto an air force base. I remember feeling really privileged, lucky, and nervous. The coding itself was pretty boring, even though I was learning to program in a language named for the first computer programmer, who was a woman, Ada Lovelace.)

After reading this article, I find that the kids in the police Explorer program went off with individual officers, it would appear, for ride-alongs and rape. Not all of them, no. Maybe not the majority. But enough. Enough. And a lot of the officers, at least as reported in this article, got off with warnings — because their departments hadn’t specifically told them, through handbooks or departmental rule books, not to rape or molest or have sex with the young folks they were charged with guiding and teaching about police work (and didn’t they do just that, though?), they couldn’t be expected to know, apparently, that it was wrong. The Explorers programs also got in trouble for not having code or language in their handbooks outlining expectations that police wouldn’t abuse or have sex with the Explorers in their charge — because why would we expect police to know that? They need it in writing. We all know that written departmental codes keep everyone in line. Send a memo next time. That’ll do it.

The Catholic Church. The Boy Scouts. The US Military. Penn State. Syracuse University. Police Departments.  This is not even a fraction of the institutions that are systematically abusing/raping people and/or covering up for abusers.

Yesterday, when I left San Francisco, headed for home across the bay, the corners down across from the Ferry Building were all coated, crawling, dotted, smeared, filled with cops, many of them in riot gear. In the middle of the night, early yesterday morning, the SF Police Department had rousted the folks at the OccupySF encampment and driven them out of Justin Herman Plaza. Then the police and the city destroyed all the protesters’ belongings and scrubbed Justin Herman Plaza clean, sanitized away all markings, all signs that anyone had tried to create a new way of living together in that space named for a man who once said, “Without adequate housing for the poor, critics will rightly condemn urban renewal as a land-grab for the rich and a heartless push-out for the poor and nonwhites” — and who also ‘urban renewal’ed people out of their homes and businesses in the Filmore and SOMA.

The first phalanx of cops in riot gear I saw were standing right next to a B of A down at Market and Spear; didn’t this tell me all I needed to know? They were protecting not the people — not the people who need housing and jobs, not the people who need food or healing — but the banks and an empty public park.

They are protecting power, I thought, and not just the power of those over them in their own hierarchy — they’re protecting their own assumptive access to those they have power over, their right to beat, to abuse, to molest, to take to take to take to take. This is what they get, now, after delivering themselves into whatever humiliations they undertook to rise up the ranks in the police force — don’t they get to take some of what was taken from them?

This is the stone cold bedrock we’ve finally hit, all of us, together, finally, isn’t it? This is what liberation means: someone else can’t just take me, my body, my home, my belongings, my life, my labor, my creative work, my energy, without my consent. Period.

I want the Occupy movement to take this on, not replicate the same sexist dynamics. I want to hear what a vision for a world without sexual violence, a world of equal access to resources, a world of safe housing and food for all would look like — because I can’t imagine it. We must be able to envision what we’re moving toward, and I’m sunk in the mire today. This is the aftermath, possibly part of the underlying aim of so many news stories about so much institutionalized sexual violence: we are surrounded; those in power don’t listen to/believe/take action on our stories; we only can heal in the aftermath — we cannot change the culture that perpetuates these violences.

I know that last line isn’t true. I’m just not able to feel my way into the possibility at the moment. It feels enormous, un-entrenching this assumption (that those in power have the right to harm, at any time, those with less power) that seems to be a part of the human dna.

Please help me — it’s selfish to make this request, but I’m also thinking about my little cousin who was just born, any niece or nephew of mine who might come into the world, my friends’ baby girls who have just landed on this planet — all of the babies that have just come into your lives, too: they deserve more than what this society offers them right now. If you’re writing your visions of a new possibility, of a world utterly rid of sexual violence (which would, wouldn’t it, entail being rid of other forms of oppression, by necessity), then that work, that idea, your vision becomes a part of the collective unconscious.

I’ll keep trying, too.

Thanks for the times you write anyway, even when it feels useless. We know, after, that it wasn’t — sometimes after is a long time coming, though.Thanks for your extraordinary vision, the depth of possibility that you hold in your hands.

step into the winter dark

sticker graffiti of a little girl in a flouncy skirt, holding a hammer up over one shoulder

she's going in to break it up

This morning I spent an hour writing in the notebook. It’s chilly here in the little apartment, but I got to wrap up in a bright red wrap that was knitted by my mother, so that helps.

What to say on a Wednesday morning? This is the slow time, the molasses time, the bundling time. Why does it, why do I feel, some need to go faster? Faster isn’t possible right now? All the gears are grinding to a halt. It’s not just Winter, the Winter Holidays, or Mercury Retrograde — it’s all of these plus deep inner-work that brings me into contact with my old stories, the ones I haven’t told, the ones I haven’t wanted even to look at, or let my throat and mouth shape.

So I set up a new writing corner in the apartment, move a rocking chair in, a small table (complete with requisite box of tissues), move a candle in — and this morning, I move my body in as well.

Here’s something I read in my recent revisiting of Women Who Run With The Wolves (which I’ll probably keep mentioning for awhile) – how alone has a connectedness to all one. Alone and all one. Sometimes (for me this is true — it might not resonate for you), the only time I feel all one is when I’m alone, when I can be unobserved, when I have no sense of having to perform any particular persona or personality. All my fragments and foibles, my snotty voices and messy faces can come out and just rest their elbows on the table with me while I eat dinner, while I read a book, while I vacuum. Off-center pieces of me can be present and accounted for, even though they don’t fit or talk right, they chew funny, they talk to themselves — even though all of that is true, they’re necessary parts of making me me, aren’t they?

Do you have stretches of time where you avoid the computer, the InterWebs? I’m having one of those times right now– you may have noticed, after almost a week of no blog posts. What does this time mean? A desire for a break from the blue light of the screen, sure. A desire to touch something besides silicone and plastic. A desire, yes, to actually be in the dark with one candle and no other noise. I often go through stretches of wanting to be away from the computer, and it’s not just about avoiding emails (that’s another issue altogether!), it’s about wanting more than these pixels, the ones and zeroes that make up this new form of communication that, sometimes, doesn’t feel even remotely human.

So I step away, into the winter dark, and let the nesting, longing, sorrow, old memory, new possibility, let all of it come upon me. I find space to be alone and bundle all the tossed-aside bits of me back up under my coat, inside my gloves — suddenly, there’s room for them. And then I get together with old and new friends and laugh until my sides ache and I remember that medicine, the necessity of it. I remember how to breathe by watching my breath take shape in the cold ocean-morning air. I fit myself into the iciness of this new blue, even if it’s not as cold as it would be this time of year if I were still living in northern New England. Still there’s the slumber — maybe not a bleak midwinter, but a cold, a going under, the sun in its hibernation, in its distance.

Plus, there’s the xmas cookies that need making. So far this year, there are about 20 different kinds on my list. Let’s see how many I can get to this year.

How do you mark the winter dark? Or, more specifically, how does your creative self respond to this time of year, to these long nights, to the chill and the quiet (if, indeed, it’s quiet where you are)? How do you or your character respond to this idea of alone == all one? Want to take 10 minutes with one or the other of these this morning? Follow your writing (like we do) wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thanks, yes, thanks, for your creative you. Thanks for all the parts of you that you hold out a hand to, hold open your heart to, even though they’re rude and not grown and they’re skateboarding down Market St or Broadway instead of sitting quiet at the table with you. Thanks, this morning, for your words.

It’s more a reflection of the boundless possibility that lies in all of us, all the time…

first was the end of nablopomo…

.stencil graffiti of a young man holding a sign that reads, let's all be quiet for awhile...and then what happened was I went really quiet.

Do you get quiet like this, sometimes, where you just have to step away from all the outside noise and input, because the inside clamor has gotten so loud?

A friend’s mom went out of town, and offered to let me stay at her place for a few days, and she didn’t have a tv and I couldn’t work out the wifi and the at&t connection was nonsensical, so I mostly wasn’t online. I listened to cds (cds! practically 78s, these days) and then also had long stretches of quiet. I walked a lot, through unfamiliar neighborhoods, through mist and fog, and I read through my own old notebooks and women who run with the wolves — yes, I’ve gone back to that one: after reading the “handless maiden” chapter, I went through and read/reread almost all the rest.

This is a difficult time of year. There’s the long dark, the part of winter that’s about nesting, about nestling in, about going inside, dormant, finding and nurturing what’s going to sprout and spring forth come March.  Then there’s the approach of the xmasness, how the commercials start before Thanksgiving now, how blatantly capitalist is the holiday, and yet we’re supposed to find some love and nurture in these exploited traditions. Folks at this time of year begin to talk family, togetherness, and I just remember the terror of being a teenager in my stepfather’s home, how every holiday was an opportunity for more abuse, one more chance for me to do something, everything, wrong, one more chance for him to make an example of my selfishness or thoughtlessness: is it any surprise that I came to want to avoid any celebration — even all these years later?

At my church (my what?) we’re talking about Advent. That’s the season now. The only thing I knew about Advent was the calendar, the one with chocolates or little presents behind each date’s window, the ones with xmas scenes printed on the cover. Apparently there’s more to Advent than that. It’s a time of waiting, of preparation for new arrival, new growth, new possibility. There’s a wreath with candles that are meant to be lit, one additional per week — and here I’d thought that only folks celebrating Hanukkah or Kwanza got to light candles at this time of year. Of course, yes, all that candle-lighting comes out of much older, pagan traditions — bringing light into the darkness of winter, celebrating the persistence of the evergreen trees that reminded us to hold on to the possibility, the coming, of new growth.

I do a little research and am alarmed to find that Advent is not only about preparing for/anticipating the birth of Jesus (which we’re supposed to believe happened around this time of the year, even though I think there’s been some ‘evidence’ that shows he would more likely have been born late summer) but also about anticipating his second coming. That last bit creeps me out a little bit (or more than a little bit). Our church isn’t at all evangelical, or even terribly traditional (at least in my understanding of traditional), and so the minister didn’t mention that second coming bit (or at least not in so many words). Maybe that’s another candle. We’ve only lit two so far: hope and peace.

Of course, after spending all this time with Pinkola-Estes this last week, I’m prepared to visit these stories from christianity as archetypes, metaphors, psychological structurings or possibilities. So, the minister at the church invites us to consider, at this time of Advent, what we’re waiting for, and what’s awakening in us: in our own lives, in our families or communities, our nations, our planet.

I’ve been holding those questions close in my belly over the last week or so. They might feel like a writing prompt for you — please note, I’m not asking you to do anything religious with them (unless you’re feeling especially called into that writing). Just consider those questions as starting places for your writing: what’s ready to awaken in you/your character? What are you/your character waiting for right now?

Thanks for your patience, your persistence work, your strong fidelity to your deepest, most creative self. Thanks every day (even when I’m not here) for your words.