Tag Archives: begin again

it all stays (es bleibt alles)

Poster on a stick, pink background behind a line drawing of a house; inside the house are the words Good morning, good morning. Upstairs, the bread dough is resting on the breadboard. I wake up to a room smelling of wild yeast, dough rising. I think a house should always smell like freshly baked bread, or about-to-be-baked-bread, don’t you?

Sometimes you make a decision and you feel something land in you, a place of possibility opens, a thing of yes hollows out all the no you’ve swallowed, and makes itself at home. You become a place where yes can live. Where future can live. Where tomorrow can live. Where hope can live. Some days you are all outshine and coffee grounds, you are the flicker of the flame and you are the flame, you are the waft of steam rising from the green tea and the hum of the wing of the hummingbird hovering over the blossom’s throat, you are the feet finding a new path, you are the fingers welcoming an old stone. You are the gist of a sentence, you are the stamen’s statement, you are the ripening peach, you are the lengthening glisten on a growing beach, you are the bean. Some days you are more than yesterday’s ache, yesterdays no, yesterday’s grief and loss, you are more than garbage, you are more than what was thrown out or ignored, you are more than the book left on the shelf for years, unread, unheralded, unblessed. Some days you are the cool chill on the neck of a sleeping deer, nestled in a place safe beneath a copse of trees, some days you are the copse of trees, you are the safety, some days you, even you, are the safe place. Your body is the safe place, your hands are the safe place, your mouth is the safe place, and your heart, as you know your heart, has always been the safe place.

Some days you are echo and dance, you are willpower and dive, you are forget and forgive, you are revenge, you are remember, you are never forget, you are anger and you are yes and you are power. You are the child curled up on the couch and the youth hiding in the closet and the young man walking down the street with a strut he thinks he doesn’t deserve but doesn’t know how to live without. You are the without. You are the strut. You are the do until die, you are the fake it until you make it, you know how to make it because you have made it here. Some days you are more than the account balance, you are more than the hours of life traded for money, you are more than the receipt, more than the transcript, more than the record, the data, the bits of information floating around in the world about you, you are their aggregation, and then you are more. You are the flicker of the squirrel tail, you are the faint hoot of the owl in the woods, you are the place of promise, you are the finger of regret and then you are the finger that scrapes through cake frosting and brings sweet to your mouth.

Some days you are learn and some days you are unlearn, you are forget, you are unwanting. You are the eyes looking across the water at distant islands, you are the eyes examining the feet of a newborn child, you are the hands that can safely hold a newborn child. Some days you are more than the loss, even though you might also still be the loss. You are the cup that holds the tea, you are the nurturance, you are the truth-telling, you are the sharpened pencil, you are the dance of pollen.

Sometimes you are more than electronic motes across a virtual dust screen, you are not the butterfly caught on the car grille, you are not the emptied rubbish can, you are not the messily erased chalkboard. Some days you are yawn and whisper and you rise from your bed like you deserve to be living. Some days the words come to you in the middle of the night and you meet them, on the page or in dreams. Some days you are the art that lives you. Some days you are the twist of the plot. Some days you are what hopes for escape and you are escape. Some days you are more than what begs in you to die, what begs in you to stop and please can’t we just stop and rest, some days you stop and rest. Some days you welcome the flow of your life, the rises and falls, the swells and thins, the ebbs and purls, the rhythms of you, the rhythms you are, the blood that follows the moon, the shallow dance, the circles, the spirals, the contours, the glisten, the blossom. You are the seed in the ground and the fingers that cover it with dirt with soil and the water that drenches and feeds.

Some days you cannot stop to think about the right word, you are the right word at the right time. Some days you know that you have always been the right word at the right time, even if someone couldn’t hear it, even if you were ignored or silenced, even if you couldn’t say the word out loud, you have always been the right word at the right time. Some days you are more than what enough holds in your belly. Some days you want what lives inside enough, the rest there, the nest, the promise, the comfort, the cradle in lap, the safe place, the knowing that you don’t have to hustle at the center of you, that you have earned the right to love yourself, that you have always been the love you deserve. That you are so far beyond ok that you can’t even see ok in your rear view mirror anymore, that you are the wind through your hair on the highway, convertible top down, sun shining on everything like a wish, you are the breeze through fingers stuck out of car windows and the ears of dogs flapping in joy. You are that joy. You are the small wishes, the littles delights that are the best ones, the bag of candy, the silly laughter, the eyes watching a dog sleep in a safe bed.

Some days you can trust that you are where you need to be, even if you know that you can’t stay there, even if there’s something in you that has to change or get out. And some days there is nothing in you that wants to escape your life anymore. Some days you have found a place where love is a blossom you can believe in, where kindness lives like breath, where your voice is a song written on the walls, written on the inside of every wrist and thigh, where your body is a delight of strength and comfort, where yours can be the body that someone wants to live in, some days that someone – can you believe it? – is you.

I woke up early, before the alarm, to lines of poemish things flowing in my head and I repeated the lines to myself like I do, thinking that I will remember even though I think I’ve never once remembered lines that came to me in the middle of the night that I don’t write down. but I woke up remembering anyway, not the lines themselves but the fact of them, the possibility of meeting the page this morning with imagination and flow, with something hopeful — San Francisco may not care but still I meet her at the corner and buy a batch of fresh Thai chilis at the farmer’s market, and the man with the light eyes didn’t remember my name, which made me happy for reasons I can’t quite explain. The man with the long hair and the question mark body was not around on Mission Street yesterday.

Something is growing inside me, something that wants answering.

I was thinking yesterday about how I used to memorize poems in German, back when I was in high school — excerpts from Goethe’s Faust — for competitions. (These were my earliest poetry recitals.) Sometimes I try to think of a way to say something, to communicate a thought, and the phrase pops up in German — unbidden, as the saying goes, like all that learning is still in me somewhere, the language, the vocabulary, the words, like they belong here, this language I loved all through junior high and high school, into college. I thought for sure I’d visit Germany, spend time there, maybe study. But then life took a different turn.

Maybe the trajectory we thought we’d take got bent and twisted into other directions. We grieve where we thought we’d get to, and by when; we grieve all that we thought we were supposed to be and do — but if I step back and look at what life has unfurled around me, there are days that I can take pleasure in what was and is. The anchor of me is still floating somewhere, not tethered, still free. There is still time to do so much of what the younger me wanted.

Some days there’s peace to be had in releasing the old dreams, even if we grieve as we let them fall from our hands — and some days we can pick them back up again, dust them off, look at them from a different angle. Yes, this fragment of life can still be mine. It’s not too late and you are not too old, Rilke said (in German it’s “Noch bist du nicht kalt, und es ist nicht zu spät”). It’s true — I want a lot (du seihst, ich will viel) — perhaps I want everything.

Some days we get to want everything, with the ache that longing brings, and the joy.

Du siehst, ich will viel
Rainer Maria Rilke

Du siehst, ich will viel.
Vielleicht will ich Alles:
das Dunkel jedes unendlichen Falles
und jedes Steigens lichtzitterndes Spiel.

Es leben so viele und wollen nichts,
und sind durch ihres leichten Gerichts
glatte Gefühle gefürstet.

Aber du freust dich jedes Gesichts,
das dient und dürstet.

Du freust dich Aller, die dich gebrauchen
wie ein Gerät.

Noch bist du nicht kalt, und es ist nicht zu spät,
in deine werdenden Tiefen zu tauchen,
wo sich das Leben ruhig verrät.

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You see, I want a lot.
Perhaps I want everything:
the darkness that comes with every infinite fall
and the shivering blaze of every step up.

So many live on and want nothing,
and are raised to the rank of prince
by the slippery ease of their light judgments.

But what you love to see are faces
that do work and feel thirst.

You love most of all those who need you
as they need a crowbar or a hoe.

You have not grown old, and it is not too late
to dive into your increasing depths
where life calmly gives out its own secret.

from The Book of the Hours
(translated by Robert Bly)

Thanks for all you’ve carried forward into today, all the wanting, all the hope, all the dreams. Thanks for allowing yourself to set some of it down. And thanks for picking some of it back up, giving yourself bits and swells of something you always wanted. Thanks for your words today. I mean it.

begin again (again)

This is where we begin: at the open notebook, at the blank page. It’s morning again, and we are starting over, again. Even if we are in the middle of a longer work, even if we have characters who whisper to us in our dreams, still: every morning is a beginning again. Every morning we are afraid we might not be able to do it, or we are afraid that nothing will come. Every time we are confronted with that space of blankness that opens out behind our fingers, behind our eyes, behind the parts of our physical selves that do the writing, the places from which the writing emerges into and through us. I have written about this before, and I suspect I will return to it again, too.

This is where we begin: at the self that’s still healing, at the self that still aches for acceptance, at the parts of our own story still being written. What am I trying to say? I sit down at the notebook and want to make sense of a story that is still finding its way into words. This is a morning write. Deliver the words into the air of the page, deliver the words into the fear and the sadness anyway. Watch the sky shift from its nighttime blackness into shallow early morning shadow, and follow those shadows into the words you need to write.

This is where we begin: at the mourning places, with the voices in us that are still keening, with the small death songs that our hands have never been able to sing. We write them down. We write down what we could not mourn when we were younger: lost friendships, stolen dogs, missteps, old wantings, family that could have been but was not allowed to be.

This is where we begin: in the deep joy, in the play, in the silliness, in the wordwonder that struck us when we first began to move pencil across blue-lined pages. We begin again in that first delight in the fact we can shape out of only words a thing that didn’t exist before, an experience, an understanding, a conveyance from ourselves and into another (or more fully into ourselves). We begin in wonder, in longing, and with hope.

There is always a beginning. This is what I’m holding this week. I have been doing this workshop-facilitation work for ten years, this writing work for about twenty, and I still feel like a beginner. I want answers and clarity, and the one thing (possibly the only) I’m sure about is this: we have to begin again. We have to pick up the pen, again. We have to open the notebook to a blank page or the next empty line, take a deep breath, and begin to write. We have to step into the mystery that is this process, the alchemy of want and haunting, language and upbringing, creative mastery and deep curiosity, healing and play.

I will spend a lifetime seeking the language for what it is that happens when we who have survived a traumatic experience sit ourselves down in a writing place and begin to let our words flow, openly, authentically, and without censorship — when we write whatever wants to be written, however it wants to be written. I don’t have the words yet, not just the right ones, and so I keep writing. I step in again, I remove my armor again, I meet the confusion and fear again, I let the words come, again. I trust that whatever words will come will be the right ones. I take deep breaths around the desire to control the flow: I wanted to write it this way, but the words are pulling me over here. Ok, then follow the words over there. There is a logical sense to this practice, this process, and its a logic born of the underground, the current and network of interconnected pathways and experience that shapes our entire lives. It’s a logic we can’t put our fingers on. It’s a logic we can’t see or explicate, a logic that tethers itself to a something beyond.

In trusting that the words will come, we are trusting ourselves, and we are trusting something other: whatever it is that delivers us the words. I don’t have a language for that other; let’s stay with mystery, or the well of creativity, or human resilience — regardless, whenever we sit down to write our stories or our poems or our journal entries or our fiction, we invite ourselves into or alongside that other. We knock on the door and we hope again that we will be admitted. Sitting down is the knocking. Lifting the pen is the knocking. Writing even though we don’t know what we’re going to say, or how we’re going to say it, is the knocking. This is how we gain admittance into that place of other, that deepness in ourselves: we begin again today.

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What is it in you that is longing, again, to find some space on the page? What would celebrate having ten minutes to play in the words with you today? Offer that time today: ten minutes, open notebook, pen, go. Begin with the phrase, “Begin again” or “We (She/He/They/You) can begin again.” If you get stuck, write it again. Begin again, again today.

Remember that the early-bird rates for the fall in-person writing groups ends this Saturday. Register this week to join us for Write Whole (open to all trauma survivors) or Reclaiming Our Erotic Story at the discounted rate.

Thank you for the ways you enter into the joy and play and unknown of this practice. Thank you for your writing today, and thank you for your words.

 

turning the inside out: re-viewing our coming out stories

Do you remember what it was like when you first came out? What about what it was like when you had to come out all over again?

(How many different times do we come out in our lives? I’ve come out as queer, as bi, as an incest survivor, as genderqueer, as femme, as gay, as a porn writer… what are the areas identity that we can keep in the closet, or that our communities want us to keep hidden? Aren’t those the parts of ourselves that require outing?)

My dearest Kathleen tells me to remind you that, though you might not know this, I’m gay. It’s June, which means it’s gay pride month (thanks, Stonewall), and I’m living in the greater (supposed) Big Gay Mecca area. I’ve had no plans to participate in much of the plethora of queer events happening this month (like, say, NQAF, Frameline), except maybe for the Dyke March and hopefully the Queer Women of Color Film Festival (which is tremendous and which you should attend for sure!).

I watched Desert Hearts yesterday, for the first time in many, many years, and today I’m remembering what it was like when I was first coming out to myself and into the world. Today I live a life that’s queer at its core and yet not always visibly so. I don’t know if I feel jaded, exactly, but, having been out so long, I feel less drawn to participate in a public performance and proclamation of queerness (or survivorship) on a regular basis.

So why am I so glad that it’s Pride month? I feel a little swell in my belly, that thickening that says excited, says yes, says I get to be with my people. It’s the same feeling I got when I’d drive down to Boston every year for their Pride March, held usually right after graduation festivities in my college town. I’d look at all the other cars going south on I-93 and assume that every single one of them was headed for Boylston Street and the gathering of queers. We couldn’t ever get there fast enough — I wanted to get my body there, in the middle of the queerfolks, on a day when everyone you saw was assumed queer, at least for a few hours. It was a day when we got to be the norm, the regular, the majority. It felt like we took over the whole city, with our rainbows and glitter and feathers and leather and candy and mardi gras beads and streamers and flyers and palm cards and sweat and sex and need. Pride Day turned me inside out, let me wear all my joy on the outside, gave me a public space for what lived around the ache I usually bore.

The story I tell is that gay wasn’t a site of trauma for me; I didn’t struggle over it, didn’t fall into the well of loneliness, didn’t get washed through with shame or guilt. I liked girls; that was nothing compared to the trauma that was my homelife. When people asked what my family thought, I laughed: my queerness is the least of our issues, I’d say. My story was that queer was good and fine, a place of blessing and joy that rose up like a surprise blossom in the middle of the devastation that was my traumatized sexuality.

In Desert Hearts, there’s a scene toward the end of the film, when the two main characters go out to a bar for a meal after the first time they’ve had sex. One woman has been out for awhile, at least to herself, and sort of tacitly to her community; the other woman is only just discovering that she could love a woman, is terrified and exhilarated – she can’t sit still, she fusses whenever her lover looks at her or touches her hand, she alternates between smiling lovingly and appearing to want to crawl under the table.

Watching this, I remembered going out for a (very) late breakfast the afternoon after the first time I slept with a woman — which was also the afternoon after the first time I kissed a woman, after the evening when I first realized that what I’d been doing with this new friend of mine all night wasn’t just teasing, it was flirting. We ordered cafe mocha grandees and waffles loaded with strawberries and whipped cream, and I was certain that we had neon signs over us flashing Lesbian! Lesbian! Lesbian! Every time I lifted my coffee cup to my mouth I could smell on my hands what we’d spent the morning doing. I wouldn’t let her touch me (except when I reached for her hands surreptitiously), and I didn’t want her to flirt — what if people saw us?

And what would they have seen? Two young women, obviously delighting in each other. Maybe they would see new lovers. Maybe they would see good friends. Maybe they wouldn’t see us at all. Our waitress, a tall, rangy, old-school dyke, surely knew who she was serving. We left her a big tip, and I wouldn’t meet her eyes.

Here’s what was true: I was still being abused by my stepfather at the time, even though I was twenty years old and away at college. I wanted to go back to my new friend’s room, climb back into her body, and I wanted to avoid my own room, where my phone lived, and the phone was his mouth, his face, an appendage that could at any moment call out and demand my full attention. I was terrified of him finding out what I’d done, because he would take it away or use it for his own ends. Or both. But I couldn’t tell this woman that — no one knew what my stepfather was doing to my family. This thing that had happened between us became another secret for me to wear.

To this first woman I loved, at least those early days, I must have been just another straight girl freaking out because she’d had sex with a woman. Of course I wanted to keep us secret. They all did. And she did her best (despite my sneaking into her room at night and making all that noise).

In my life, homophobia had the face of my stepfather, a psychotherapist who was raping his daughters and yet had the audacity and authority to demonize homosexual with the standard 1970s DSM story: underdeveloped; domineering mother, absent father; narcissistic; suicidal; selfish, and obsessed with sex and the death drive.

His was the story I had to swim through if I wanted to live — and his was the embodiment of psychoanalytic homophobia. And so I learned to breath that belief even as I was trying to justify sanctify regulate reconcile it with the complicated, beautiful, kind, generous, catty, smart queer-spectrum folks I was beginning to get to know. It was one thing to have internalized the idea that I was narcissistic and selfish, and another to not see that in this community I had found (at least, no more so than in any other group of people).

So, it’s not exactly true to say that my coming out was unfraught. It was actually terrifying, woven as it was into the life I was living as this man’s stepdaughter.We tell and retell our coming out stories; they take on a shape and a structure for us, they organize (as does any narrative) what is a disorganized and explosive/implosive experience. I am grateful to get to revisit my own well-told stories, to reach into and underneath them, to write them again, to find the slippery and scared parts, the parts that haven’t been told yet.

Coming out is ongoing, everpresent. What did coming out look like for you? What does it look like now?

Thank you for the way you continue to look inside the petals of your stories, to find what new life there is to discover there. Thank you for your words.

begin again

graffiti of a stone self wearing a manacles that have broken free of their chainsGood morning this Monday morning. Outside, the light is just bringing me the green of everything that’s finding fall to be a delight; inside, the candles remind me that the day is still early. I tend to berate myself if I haven’t started writing before 6 (let’s not even mention 7), but today there’s a different voice in my head. The dog has her ball. Today, morning looks like something of promise, not a place of loss.

This is the song in my head this morning, ringing over and over, singing me into this morning. And this is what I want to say today – it’s not too late.

Begin again. Continue reading

the right time

graffiti of a flower, a bee hovering over, maybe a microphone in the background?Good morning! The birds are quiet today — maybe this blue-grey wakening day is subduing them.

What do things look like outside your window? (That’s a great place to begin writing, btw — if you’re just opening the notebook and wondering what to say. Start anywhere — say anything. All the starts are just opened doors that you can walk through, that your writing can walk you through, to get you where it wants you to go. So take that square of windowpane: what’s on the other side? What exactly do you see, or don’t you see? The descriptions will pull you in to the writing, the process, the flow. Let yourself get pulled, notice what associations, what words or phrases or characters start to bubble up, and let those down onto the page next, then follow them.)

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Tomorrow I head up to Sacramento for the second Reclaiming Our Erotic Story workshop! This is a day-long writing opportunity, a chance to engage in some fun, hot, risky writing with a wonderful community of folks. Light breakfast served, lunch on your own — we get to fill the library of the Sutter Hospital in Sacramento with our sexy and powerful stories! I had a great time with this workshop in January, and I’m so looking forward to returning. (There are still a few spaces available — write to John Crandall if you’d like to join us!)

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Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans.

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now. -Attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; the majority of the quote was actually written by William Hutchinson Murray (1913-1996), in The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

(Does it matter where the words come from, if they move you? When does it matter? Why?)

I was afraid it wasn’t the right time to get a dog. And of course, it wasn’t. We have so much on our plates, our calendars, so much we are trying to do. I have three workshops, maybe four, starting next month, a day-long workshop tomorrow — remember hat June is Pride month and we want to do everything. I’ve been complaining here that an hour writing time in the morning just isn’t enough, I leave the journal frustrated, have to slink to the day job. We didn’t make a good plan. I have classes I want to sign up for, and so much work to do. How could I possibly think about adding a dog? I should have waited until I had more time, until the coast was clear, until we have a perfect plan and budget and know exactly how it’s going to go.

Of course, you know: the coast is never clear. There’s always something else. It’s never the perfect time. We did it anyway — and after a weekend of profound anxiety, it turns out, it was the right time. We’re still adjusting, opening, stretching our lives to accommodate her, like she is stretching to accommodate us — and here’s an amazing thing. So far this week, I’ve had about a half hour at the blog, and it feels like enough. I wake, do my three morning pages in the notebook, and those feel like enough, too. Then I have time with my dog, this new companion, in and around all of that necessary writing time, and the time is enough. A half-hour has expanded, moved, shifted, opened. I can’t explain it, and I’m grateful.

It’s never the right time, and then again, that might mean that it is. What’s the thing you want, that your character wants, that it’s not the right time for? Write it, ok? Give it 10 minutes this morning.

Thanks for how you let your dreams come through you into reality, how you are the body of dreams, how you live. Thanks for your resilient creative self, and for your words.