filling up, if not spilling over (and pup-love)

graffiti -- child releasing a red-heart balloonToday I am thinking about all the ways we replenish — or don’t.

Slept a little too much, and that only means that I didn’t get up early enough to do as much writing as I’d like to do.  It definitely doesn’t mean that I slept enough. Still tired, but in that bone-dread way, like I could never sleep enough.  That tells me that I’m empty somewhere, putting too much out and not filling back up enough, not replenishing the stores.

Laura van Dernoot Lipsky talks about this in Trauma Stewardship, when we’re thinking about self-care — and remembering that self-care is community-care is care and commitment to the work and the struggle, since, when we burn out, we’re defeating our larger purpose. We can each, always, find even five minutes a day to recenter on wellness, take a break, meditate, breathe deep, laugh hard. These things, even as brief as they have to be sometimes, keep us in our skin.  Let me use I-statements: they keep me in my damn skin, keep me ok with being in here.

So what are the things I’d can do to take care of myself, even without endless time and resources?  Maybe I’ll actually take my lunch break today, take it away from my desk, go over to Borders and read a non-socially-conscious book for an hour.  Maybe I’ll ask for more help — I need it.  What else, Jen?  You can think of things.  Forget that this is a blog post.  What else can you do to save yourself?  You can walk along the water.  You can put your hair up so it doesn’t drive you crazy. You can make a list of everything you need to remember to do so that you don’t have to keep rehearsing what you’re forgetting.  You can write on the bus.  You can look out the window and listen to music on the bus and forget about writing.  You can wear just a little bit of essential oil, just because the scent makes you remember and smile.  You can take more breaks from the computer, from the keyboard. Maybe you can spend the morning at a cafe, with work-work, drafting out what needs to be typed later.  You can step away from Facebook, just for today — Facebook sometimes makes you crazy. You can listen to music that reminds you how much you love to dance.  You can wear clothes that you honestly feel good in. You can get a cup of coffee at the cafe.

Maybe, on the bus home from work, you can write more of this list in the back of your notebook — more easy things you can do to take care of yourself, to fill back up, so you don’t get to where you feel like an empty husk walking around, offering only shadows of smiles.

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Here’s something that always fills me up (no, really): the Erotic Reading Circle is this Wednesday — tomorrow, 7:30-9:30!  We meet every fourth Wednesday at the Center for Sex and Culture, 1519 Mission St (between 11th and So Van Ness). Carol Queen and I will be there, with a group of gifted and surprising writers sharing their words for everyone’s enjoyment and feedback. Will you be there? We have memoir, fiction, poetry and sci-fi — whatever erotic work you’re writing, whether explicitly carnal or not, we’d love to hear it.

And I really do feel filled up after: I feel so excited and grateful that folks are willing to gather to share these stories of desire, lust, longing, loss — of body, of fantasy, of remembering —  I’m always so fucking inspired to be more brave.  That’s what it is.

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Here’s a prompt for today — I may have offered this one before.  It’s one I use at the beginning of a workshop, as an intro exercise (and thanks to Chris DeLorenzo for offering this one the first time, at least to me): write about an animal you’ve had a strong relationship with, whether positive or negative (doesn’t have to be a pet).

I brought this one to the July Writing the Flood, and of course the writing in response was strong, emotional, inventive.  Here’s what I wrote:

This was the longest escape hatch, walking slow and deliberate out the stony front door with my black dog on a short leather leash (I can’t really remember if the leash was leather or not but I have to move on from here) and every day we jumped into a new step of being away, we ran aground of the sinking ship of home, she and I were the one true pair of escapees, solitary explorers in the wilds of midtown Omaha, quiet and concrete bound, we stalked the lush tree-lined streets looking for echoes of some possible future. She was really just looking for the now, I was looking for a way out, and of course, all roads lead to home, led back to that fat grey house with the fat grey man inside, the one who hunched with anger like a caricature of himself, and me and my dog, twice a day, we were free of all our tenements, the concrete horror bled from our veins,  from our ears, she as my one true way to be free.