be with not knowing

graffiti on stairs: I love you / every step / of the way
it says, "I love you / every step / of the way" -- perfect

Good Thursday morning! Today it’s achy legs from walking and achy shoulders from teaching a dog not to pull at the leash (just because I’m standing still doesn’t mean my arm isn’t getting yanked!) — and, also,  it’s woodpeckers on the telephone poles, jays hopping around in the middle of the street, and hawks waking up over the hills.

Today’s tea is nettle-tulsi-skullcap-cardamom-anise. What scent or taste is bringing you some peace in these early hours?

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We’re in the last few days of  regular registration for the Summer ’11 writing workshops: Write Whole (for all women survivors of sexual trauma) and Declaring Our Erotic (open to queer folks of all genders)! After June 5, there’s a late registration fee — please register soon if you’re going to join us!

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Here’s what my therapist said to me last week, when I was both thrilled and terrified about having brought this new pup into my/our lives: it’s hard to be in the unknown. I was rambling through all the what ifs: what if she’s not the right dog for us, what if this changes things for us in a bad way, what if I picked the wrong dog, what if I can’t train her, what if what if what if… She said, it’s always easier to be with what could go wrong, to be present with that, than to be really clear about being in the unknown. The truth is, even now, a week-and-a-half in to this new relationship (who makes any decisions based on a week-and-a-half??), we still don’t know what’s going to happen for the three of us. That doesn’t mean something bad is going to happen — it just means that we don’t know.

Humans don’t like to not know: we prefer clear answers. Maybe not all humans: maybe westerners are especially un-adept with the unknown. Maybe it’s just me. But I prefer to have some answers. I like to know what I’m doing. I like to hold on to this idea that I’m in control.

The fact is, I never actually know what’s going to happen in my day — but with enough repetition and routine, I get lulled into a sense of complacency, a sense of comfort, a sense of control, a sense that I know. Bringing big change into my routine reminds me of the reality: I’m living in the unknown every second I spend trying to decide what’s going to come next. All I can really know is right now. Right here.

So Sophie and I are doing some walking meditations. And watching, too, as we change and grow together, through our not-knowing-but-practicing-anyway. Talk about radical self care. This is work!

I spent a long time wanting to know what was going to happen with my healing process: I wanted to know when it was going to get better, when I was going to get better. I still want that, sometimes, but much more rarely now: better is always relative — by definition, of course. Better shifts and changes, as I shift and change; it’s a moving target, always, moment to moment. When I stay present with what’s happening, pay attention, story it, write it, better comes into the now. This is practice (and has also involved lots of crying, laughing at terrible movies, eating too much popcorn or cake, walking endless loops around endless neighborhoods). Being present isn’t always pretty, but it helps — it helps me ease out of the thick anxiety, the panics that well up and around what if. I don’t know what if. I only know what is.

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Want to write? What about your not-knowing — what do you what to know, what does your character want to know, that you or they can’t know right now? What’s it like to just not know? Give me, give you, these 10 minutes — go (like Natalie Goldberg says).

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Thanks for not knowing with me today. Thanks for writing, always.