Good morning, good morning. Outside my window, it’s still dusky, but the light is coming. Yesterday the puppy barked several times at neighbors walking by below the second fence in the backyard — she was talking to the deer that use that treelined stretch as a safe boulevard from one bit of preserved land to another. I said to the puppy, I wish you’d just say hello to them, maybe make them feel a little more welcome, a little less harassed. I’d like to say that to the folks in and around the White House these days, too, but I think they’d be less receptive than my dog.
I don’t know about you, but it’s been a struggle for me not to just hide inside my shell a lot for the last several months. Things often feel hopeless right now. Maybe you feel triggered all the time, or a lot more often than usual. Maybe you’ve been going to every protest you hear about. Maybe the protests don’t work for you. Maybe you’re like me—spinning, anxious, unable to stay focused on one thing for very long. I tell my therapist that I’ve been more irritable lately, more impatient, quicker to anger — she says that she’s hearing this from many, many people. I think that we are so afraid, and so sad—and really fucking angry.
In order to get through this time of madness, I think we’re going to have to be more creative, more inventive, take more risks, and find deeper pathways into “right relationship” with our creative intuition, that steady inside voice that so many of us have been trained to ignore. We’re going to have to write and sing and dance and paint and sculpt and craft and build and climb and grow.
I want to tell you that, this summer, my book, Writing Ourselves Whole: Using the power of your own creativity to recover and heal from sexual trauma, is coming out from Mango Media. (I’m incredibly excited and terrified about this.) It’s a collection of essays that tangle with the most important topics to my heart: writing as a practice of healing and transformation for survivors of sexual trauma, what I’ve learned in more than ten years (now almost fifteen!) writing with survivors (and others), and about kindness and generosity—what do we as a country need now more than a deeply-held ethic of kindness and generosity?
In some ways, the book is as easy and hard to describe as the groups are — they sound simple, straight-forward: writing groups for survivors of sexual abuse. Nothing unusual or even new about that. But once folks are in the room—something like magic happens. There’s connection and grace, openness, love, hope, a space for creativity and even wanting that had been shut down, sometimes for years. There’s space for those stories we were told never to tell, space for us to find and share our truest languages, space for our hiddenest parts to be witnessed, and to get to offer witness to others—space to experience ourselves as creators, as artists, as wordsmiths, as writers.
This is the presence and invitation I hope the book can offer to readers as well.
I think we’re going to need each other even more to get through these difficult times, to sustain ourselves, to nurture and support, and one of the ways we can do that in community is to create together. Writing Ourselves Whole is also for survivors who want to start peer writing groups in their own communities. There are many exercises, of course — one of the hardest things was to winnow down almost fifteen years’ worth of prompts.
My hope is that the Writing Ourselves Whole will feel like a companion voice, will help survivor-readers to feel less isolated, and, above all, will spur readers to write, to open their own notebooks and start to spill out the words that have been building up inside. It includes essays about my own experience of long-term trauma survival, how writing has been the thing I could hold on to when nothing else seemed to work, or when I was too broke for (or too scared about) therapy, or when I felt lost and alone and abandoned: writing been the one steady thing in my life over the last twenty-some years since I got away from the man who’d been abusing me.
Given the difficulty we’re living in and through, I hope this book can encourage survivors to take care of ourselves, trust our instincts, take risks, let our voices out, to trust and recognize that our voices are needed. Your voice is needed. I want to encourage us to keep on taking care of our bodies, to take care of our hearts, to trust and appreciate that desire is still allowed—if we don’t take care of ourselves, we cannot sustain the struggle for the long-term. And this is long-term struggle we’re engaged in, whether we’re battling this so-called government or we’re just talking about living with trauma.
I’ll be sharing excerpts from the book, to give you all a sense of what’s going to be inside — but if you’ve participated in any group with me, I think you’ll recognize the voice in this book. It’s a voice that adores you and your words (for real, though), that is so grateful that you’re there with a pen, that cannot wait to hear what you have to say.