following the signs

street art: a cut out of a soaring bird, with a human form soaring withinI don’t know if I could be more grateful for the weather we’ve been having.

House hunting is not one of my favorite things to do — it’s about as much fun as looking for a new therapist, with more anxiety, sometimes, at least for me. Every time we have to move, suddenly everything is thrown up into the air — where do we want to live? where could we live? we could live anywhere! And so we scan and consider rentals from Mendocino to Santa Barbara — it’s hard to stop looking at craigslist. And then there are the visits: where will we go look? do we apply here? why did we drive all the way up to Santa Rosa if we really don’t want to live here? but would we have known unless we’d taken that couple hours on one of our few precious weekend days this month?

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Writing the Flood is this Saturday! We’re meeting on the 2nd instead of the 3rd Saturday this month, so that we can have one more meeting in the Flood Building. A few spaces are still available (this will be a smaller group this month) — please let me know if you’d like to join us!
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The hawks are following me (or, I hope, I’m following them) — there are a couple in residence around the  neighborhood, and I hear one calling now. They spread their big brown wings and float over the ball fields across in the park, then up to the enormous pine tree behind the b&b across the street, and I feel welcomed, or blessed, or encouraged, or just grateful. Right: pay attention. Yesterday, on the way to my appointment with my former employer, with whom I wanted to talk about therapy and Lacan and Wittgenstein and writing and graduate school, the hawks lit on the lightposts like sentinels. Or cairns. This is my own meaning-making, I know — but that’s what we do every minute, we humans: we use and engage with signs, symbols, shorthands.

I’m walking through a heavy time right now. Old pain, old loss and sorrow and rage, is with me like it’s new. Of course, it isn’t just old: it’s right now. It’s present as I am. It’s present because I am. And I remember times, when I first started openly dealing with being an incest survivor, that I wondered if “it” would ever get better: if I would ever stop crying, if I would be able to smile again, if I could pay good and close attention to other people, if I would be ok. And it did get better — the pain lightened, shifted, took on different shapes and weights. And then it wasn’t better: but when it came back, the pain, it was different — I could do a different kind of work. I think you’ll understand this, but I wish I could be more precise in this language. Yes, it gets better and it gets different: and it’s ongoing work. It doesn’t ever end, because it’s us. It’s this life we’re walking through, that history and how we tend to it, the layerings of our selves throughout.

Because I still struggle with it, I want to dispel this myth that someday we get perfectly “fixed.” Someday it’s all done, we’re healed, and the rest of our lives are just about struggling with normal things: bills, drivers cutting us off in traffic, getting a promotion, that kind of irritating thing that your brother does when he’s eating.

But it doesn’t go like this. The work is ongoing, because life is ongoing, and we carry what we carry. How we carry it and deal with it changes, how we process and deal with it changes: for instance, I’m less likely to punch a wall or drink myself into a blackout at this point in my life. At one time, those were necessary survival strategies. Now I have more resources available — or, more accurately, there are more strategies that I’ll try now. I pay different attention to my own signs, the messages my body sends me.

So, right now, I’m going slow and eating well and resting and walking a lot. I’m talking on the phone, and doing lots of crying. I’m taking care of this now self and that (those) past self(-ves) as best as possible. The writing is coming hard, but still I put myself down in front of the page. That’s #1 on Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way Rules of the Road: “Show up at the page. Use the page to rest, to dream, to try.”

What about an exercise: Do you notice that you deal with old struggles differently now than you used to? What has that change looked like? What about for a character you’re working with — how do they engage with the memories that hurt them? How did they used to deal with those things? Write about the old ways with as much gentleness and respect as possible: those ways got us through to here.

Thank you for your patience with yourself, for your infinite capacity for strategizing around your healing and being in this life. Thank you for your words.

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