Monthly Archives: October 2012

honoring what’s died

graffiti of skeletons holding handsThis morning it’s hard to get out of the nest. The candles don’t pull me, and I lie there cuddled in with the words from a maybe dream. In my dream, my writing persona had two parts, each with its own name. In my dream I knew each of their names. Something like Lillian and Ruth, but I don’t think that’s right. One side was more linear, or performative, the side that sat down to generate words for public viewing, the side that rafted the writing like an editor. The other part was the organic side, the part that let words flow, the part that tapped into the long seam of imagery and possibility living somewhere inside our psyche and let the writing flow from there — the side for whom writing is a swirl, a vein, an immersion, a mess.

This morning I am thinking about the personae, the selves, and the dead — and I want to know how we can honor all of it. Continue reading

the shift of our stories

graffiti detail: bright slashes of red blue black yellow silverGood Monday to you. Here is candlelight and cooling tea, here is the chill of late October morning, here is the click of keys into a quiet kitchen, here is the ache of morning. What is hovering inside and about you at this time of faeries and visitations?

Today I am thinking about story: the stories we share with others in order to explain ourselves, the way those stories, our storying, shift over time — and what those shifts can tell us about how we are healing. Continue reading

what if we stop now (just for a minute)?

This morning it’s chilly in the apartment. I watch my fingers on the keyboard,  watch the candles, watch the steam rising up from the tea, watch the words emerge. The heat of the tea candles eddies the air, moving the prayer flags that hang above my writing space.

I feel scattered and sleepy. How do I gather all the pieces back in, find our new rhythm? This is the juggling time, and that’s why all my muscles are aching. I stop. Today there’s a deep quiet inside, someplace that wants to rest.

This is what I read last night, in my revisiting of women who run with the wolves:

“To lose focus means to lose energy. the absolute wrong thing to attempt when we’ve lost focus is to rush about struggling to pack it all back together again. Rushing is not the thing to do. As we see in the tale [“The Three Gold Hairs”], sitting and rocking is the thing to do. Patience, peace and rocking renew ideas. Just holding the idea and the patience to rock it are what someone women might call a luxury. Wild Woman says it is a necessity.” (p. 329)

Have you found yourself at this sort of place, where there’s too much to do and no time to do it in? There’s always too much to do and no time to do it in, but when my energy is waned or I am reached the over saturated place, suddenly time feels tighter. How can I rest at times like these? Continue reading

results that aren’t results

This morning it’s late again when I sit down here at the keyboard and I remember that my body is always heavier, sleepier, more tired when she’s sleeping. We’re supposed to pretend like the blood doesn’t affect us, like everything’s normal. Well, everything is normal — this body is working extra hard during these days. Be unsurprised, ego-self, that the animal body has her seasons and cycles, has her rhythms and climbs, has her furrows, her sweet spots, has the moments when all she can do is lie down. Come and lie down with us. Bring a book. Now is the fallow time.

Last night was the Erotic Reading Circle at the Center for Sex and Culture, the monthly reading event I get to co-facilitate with the most-delicious Carol Queen. I am never disappointed at the ERC: last night we had stories about public-alley sex and masturbation and memoir about sex in SF in the mid-70s; we had the next installment of a fantasy piece, a story that taught me about the layers of exhibitionism possible at a nude beach, and D/s stories from both the D perspective and the s. The folks who come to the circle, both the regulars and the newbies, are without fail attentive listeners who are engaged with each piece being shared into the room — people pay close attention, give strong feedback, want to hear more. What a gift, to have a space where one’s erotic work is taken seriously. We meet again November 28 — maybe you’ll be able to join us one of these months.

Here’s what I want to tell you — the tissue around my microcalcifications came back benign. And today I go meet with a surgeon in the family practice department who will feel around where my primary care doctor originally felt around (and felt worried), and tell me if there’s anything going on that the mammogram didn’t pick up.

Continue reading

what if I gave my body what she’s asking for?

stencil street art of a child sleepwalkingGood morning this Wednesday morning. How are you being fed today so far?

I started writing to you before I got out of bed this morning, wanted to find a way to write the blog directly from my brain into this space without having to get out of my warm nest and type it out with my fingers. There, ensconced in my covers, I was telling you about sleep, and about a new project that I’m formulating to think (through the writing) about how my relationship with sleep is changing.

All this, while hitting snooze on my little phone alarm for over an hour. Continue reading

necessary medicine

Good morning! After 7am and the birds are just now waking up in the live oak tree behind the apartment — I guess the rain kept them inside, too. The puppy’s not up yet, either. I think she knows what we’re gonna find when we head out into the city. Today, I’m grateful for the thick grey wet out there. Been up and working since 4:30. It’s almost time for a breakfast break.

Yesterday I had my third workshop in four days; it was a full stretch, starting on Thursday afternoon, and today I’m in a re-centering mode. How do you find your balance?  Continue reading

our bodies are not disposable

graffit of a tidal wave, painted in red on the side of a buildingGood morning good morning, my friends. This morning finds all the technology quieted because the batteries died in the night, next to me sleeping on  the couch on my back so that the (slight, ok, sure) bleeding would stop.

Let me back up. Yesterday, at about 9 in the morning, I got a biopsy in my right breast, after my first mammogram where they found a tiny gathering of micro calcifications and had no other photos to compare it to, no way to know whether this was a new gathering or a group that’s been hanging out together for awhile. And because I will be losing my insurance at the end of this month when I leave my day job, I decided to go ahead and do the biopsy now instead of waiting for 6 months for a followup mammogram and maybe having to do it then.

I woke up yesterday intending not to give the biopsy any energy at all. I didn’t want it to be a thing. I didn’t want to worry about it, because worry is negative energy and could affect the outcome of the tests. (What? This is what magical thinking looks like.) I expected to be in and out of there in under an hour, which the radiologist had lead me to believe would be the case.

My first clue that the day might not go quite that way was when someone took me back for a pre-procedure conversation that was meant to take half-hour. So that they could tell me about the whole procedure, again, and warn me about all the risks.

Oh.

We sat in what had once been a procedure room, a room in some sort of midway state — machinery had obviously been removed, the walls were disheveled, and the floors not yet refinished. It felt furtive to meet in this room, like we weren’t worth an actual consultation space.

I have rants about the whole procedure, yet another in which a woman is supposed to position herself and then lie perfectly still while her breast is caught in a vise and people jab into it from beneath her, where she can’t see them. And about those goddamn gowns — don’t even get me started on the gowns. that’s what I expected I’d write about today. But I want you to feel that moment of transition when I understood that I wasn’t just in the doctor’s office to do some minimally invasive thing like get weighed or get a pap smear or get my blood drawn. The doctor here was drawing my tissue. From the inside of my breast.  I want to write about the moment I decided I wouldn’t go to work after all, that I’d go home and take care of myself (and let someone else help with that — which really is a whole ‘nother post).

I started to cry, just a little, in the mammogram room — we were doing follow up images, my sore and bruised and bleeding breast lifted into the compression machine again for two more pictures. I held my breast in between the shots, felt where she was numb, felt where she was beginning to hurt. I cried because it was a tender and radical thing to do, to just go home, to treat my body as though it had actually been invaded. Because it had been. This was not a little nothing procedure. This was a big deal. Not surgery, sure, not the most invasive thing ever. But something to pay attention to, and take care of myself after.

The puppy is standing sentry; she is worried about me. She came out to check on me often last night, wondering what I was doing out here n the living room instead of with her in the bedroom. It was bedtime after all. At nighttime we go here, mom. What are you doing?

This morning my heart is still pounding and I am still scared — not about the results, but about a life that doesn’t have any room in it for illness or emergency. Last night I wondered if I’d have to go to the emergency room. All day, my wound leaked a little blood. Not a lot, nothing at all excessive, but enough to register on, and then make its way through, folded pieces of gauze, then into the fabric of my bra. All afternoon I applied compression in 10-15 minute sets, jamming my fingers down into flesh that was already bruised and sore, trying to get the bleeding to stop. I was supposed to be wearing an icepack every hour for ten minutes or so, to help the swelling go down, but I didn’t do that very consistently until the very end of the night, until after my sweetheart finally had to go and I’d finished my bollywood movie and watched hours of silly tv, lying there flat on the couch. I’d done no work all day, left the email alone and piling up. I cried finally because the wound wouldn’t stop bleeding and I might have to go to the emergency room and I didn’t have time for that. I didn’t have time to take care of myself that way. I didn’t have time to take another day off of work; plus, I don’t have the sick time. I have a lot to do today, and all of it depends on my physical stamina and wellness — I have to clean the house (which includes vacuuming) and take care of the dog and prepare a meal and get to and from work and read and respond to many emails from people. I have work to do. I have no time to be sick.

What does it mean in our culture that most of us don’t have time to take care of ourselves. We treat our bodies as if we/they are as disposable as the rest of the packaging around us. We act as though once these bodies wear out, this part or that part, we can just go down to Ross or Office Max or maybe the Goodwill and get another one, almost as good, not quite as used up as what we’ve got now. Maybe you don’t behave this way toward your body. It occurs to me, now, that I have been.

I count on my physical capacity. Yesterday I met what lives on the underside of that assumption, the idea that I will always be able to handle everything that needs handling, alone if necessary: I can lift the heavy things and walk the pulling dog and clean the house and make the food and do the writing and walk myself back and forth to work. The life I have constructed revolves around the understanding that my body can accommodate significant physical demands.

Something had to give yesterday, and it turned out to be me. It turned out that my perfect schedule with all the moving parts meshed exactly right, that was the part that had to break open to let the pillows and soreness in. I would never have assumed that after a procedure like this, scheduled for 8 in the morning in order to accommodate a working schedule, that I would just go home. I felt weak, doing so, like I was giving in to something. To my body, I guess. Where does that idea come from?

No one at the doctor’s office told me I might want to take the day off from work after my biopsy. They just assumed I’d be going home. But who can afford that?

No one said, listen, your breasts are the site of a lot of trauma — especially your right breast — and now you’re opening that site up for strangers to handle and puncture into. Don’t be surprised if some loss and sorrow drops out. They don’t tell you about how to deal with that aftermath in their biopsy aftercare mimeograph.

I spent yesterday holding on to my breast, holding on to this place of pleasure and wonder and grief. I took acetaminophen and applied gauze and ice and ate easy food.  I needed help, and got to receive it. I can’t imagine what the day would have been like if I’d’ve gone to work, acting as though nothing had happened, that a giant needle hadn’t just been poked into my body and a bit of tissue carved out.

My breasts are heavy, and the puncture site from the biopsy needle is on the underside — gravity spent all day yesterday doing its thing. The bleeding finally stopped, and I am nervous about being upright all day, afraid that it will start again. It’s normal, I think, if I do. It’s normal to need help. It’s normal for our bodies to need to slow down, need rest, need care, need nurturing. How long before this idea becomes easier to handle?

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So, as a prompt, I wonder about giving 10 or 20 minutes to this idea of our bodies being disposable, that we can just run them into the ground and expect them to keep working, at the same capacity, forever. How do you (or your characters) relate to this idea? What comes up for your writing self? Start writing from those associations and then follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thank you for honoring what care your body needs, even when it feels so hard to give it. Thank you for your generosity to self/-ves, and thank you for your words.

bodylove (again)

graffiti of a bird (a penguin) with the words "love me" on its round bellyThis morning the candles led me into the notebook, and I’ve got to be up and out early, so this is a short prompt today:

If you are in a place where you can, I want to invite you to put your hands on a part of your body that you have hated, that has been a place of shame or loss or embarrassment, that has held trauma for you. If you don’t want to actually rest your hands there, imagine doing so. Just rest your hands and/or energy there for a moment. Notice what rises up in you as you give some energy to this part of your body — or maybe to your body as a whole. What does it mean to deeply love and cherish your body, all of its parts, exactly as it is — as you are?

At this point, I like to invite a love letter to that part of the body that you’re cradling in your good hands (and it might be a love letter to your hands, too!) — notice what tone such a letter might take: adoring, apologetic, rueful, sweet, seductive, tender. What do you want to say to this part of your body? What does this part of your body want to say to you?

Sometimes, on nights when I offer this prompt, I share one of these poems as well:

This Part of Your Body
Lin Max

you won’t touch or call it by name yet
but this part of your body –
this part of your body
you’re going to get to know
better than your elbow
this part of your body
you’re going to love
and hate
this part of your body
will swell and drip dew
attracting hunters and slaves
this part of your body
may be your secret joy
but this part of your body
will keep you off the streets after dark
it will be poked and spread by stainless steel
scrutinized by strangers with scalpels
behind white drapes
as if were not a part of you
this part of your body will stretch
over the heads of human beings
or tighten to a finger in its gentle rhythm
this part of your body
is more expressive
than your mouth
this part of your body
laughs louder
has its own exhausted grimace
this part of your body moans
its lonely emptiness
you will spend your life trying to fill
this part of your body

(from Claiming the spirit within)

Bodyweight
by Matthew Schwartz

My crutches felt heavier than I was.
They landed with a thick thud on the blacktop
each time I took a step. I had to watch how I walked

so I didn’t fall, like the other kids expected.
I liked to leave my crutches half-buried
behind the sandbox, where I couldn’t see them,

and creep up the uneven monkey bars
arced like the upper half of a globe.
I wanted to see the whole playground.

The rungs crowded too close together,
and none of them was shaped the same.
I lifted my feet slowly to keep my braces quiet

against the metal. At the top, I could still hear
the jump rope flying, my friend throwing
handfuls of sand. I slipped. I locked my arms

tighter around whatever bars I could reach, and my leg
tensed and shook and hit the rung too close to me
when I tried going down, and my foot shot

through the gap, and dangled there.
I thought I could maybe slide out.
I thought my body could fit like my foot did,

but I was stuck. Everyone could see me,
everyone could hear me asking myself
What do I do with my body if it’s

not a secret?

(from Scars Tell Stories: A Queer and Trans(Dis)ability Zine)

Follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thank you for your tenderness with your own good and complicated body, and for your tenderness with others’ bodies, too.

let it dangle

sticker of flowers on a concrete beamJust write today. It doesn’t matter what. Just write.

The candle rests on top of the closed notebook and the morning pages go in here. This morning I am rushed and a bit shot through with panic; the dreams all lifted me into worry. What kind of sleeping is that?

What are last night’s dreams offering you this morning?

Today I will meet and talk and work mostly away from the computer. In the evening I will be with my cousin, and I will remember what blood is for. This morning I feel both tangled and loosed, like a collection of live wires all knotted up. This is what transition feels like, right? These are growing pains — this is me digging into my own potbound rootball, tearing up what hasn’t had air or food or enough room to grow. Today I feel like everything–all my ambition and desire — is hanging out, too visible, too naked. Continue reading

trusting our soul fire

graffiti of a bird behind barsGood morning, my friends, and good Monday! I’m here on the other side, just waking up. Slow morning and all the clothes are on inside out, waiting for the tea water to boil and for the words to come.

This morning I am thinking about instinct, intention and ambition. I spent some time yesterday, again, with the women who run with the wolves, reading the chapter about soul hunger. When we have been starved of our true selves, we will grab for anything that looks like it will feed us; how do we learn to trust our instincts again, to only take on and in what will truly feed and sustain our souls?

Yesterday Matthew Fox gave me Hildegarde von Bingen in conversation with Audre Lorde, spoke of a reengagement with an eros that is embodied, that inhabits our every movement, that is about our passionate communion with life.  He mentioned, too, Women Who Run With the Wolves, which brought me back into this book’s stories. We who have been starved or have starved our souls, we who have been trapped and dried up and without access to that which fills us up and moves us forward (which is, of course, our erotic self) can often stuff ourselves full of whatever comes our way as soon as we are freed from what bondage has kept us separate from our souls. And — at least in my experience — we can get strung out on that feeling of being released.

(Some explicit languaging of trauma below the fold in this post: be easy with you)

Continue reading