This isn’t like that — this is like something else. (That’s how it begins.)
Last night, I went to one of Vanissar Tarakali‘s workshops, Do It Yourself Trauma: Healing principles and practices to support your personal healing process. I want to follow my own instincts, these desires to let others both help and witness me into my body, to do the incredibly simple but also simultaneously (sometimes) devastating work of just noticing what’s going on in my body and letting it be. Last night Vanissar talked about emotional first aid (she talks about it on her blog here), and then we practiced some of what she described: grounding into the body, physical practices to meet and/or engage with particular feelings, appreciating the body for doing all that it does to take care of us (and this includes our trigger responses, the stuff we do that we don’t want to do anymore because it doesn’t serve us but it did serve us once upon a time), lots more. The three hours flew by! Here’s a great thing she said: if you beat yourself up for the ways that your body responds when it thinks it’s threatened, that’s going to seem like a threat! Whew.
What do I want to say about this? This morning I am both more achy and less — the armor around my shoulders (which last night I began envisioning like a pair of shoulder pads, the kind that footballers wear) feels softened. Not gone, just malleable; not penetrable, but able to shift some.
I got up extra early today to do my morning pages, before coming to the computer. Maybe it will have been a good idea, but right now I’m tired and would like more sleep. Yesterday was a very quiet day — perfect. No time on the computer — 2 old movies (a Doris Day & a Katherine Hepburn) and 1 more recent, Hook. A day for baking, for reading in the sun, for cafe writing.
Two nights ago, when we got home from dinner with Alex after Body Empathy, there were at least two deer nested down back beneath the big tree directly in front of the carport. We tiptoed out of the car, lugging bags of stuff, materials, workshop business and food, and said hello to them and told them how pretty they were. They kept their eyes on us, ears up, watching, but didn’t move. The bigger one didn’t move, the mama maybe — the smaller, behind, she’d stood by the time we were done unloading. Yesterday afternoon I wandered back to where they’d been, wanted to see the outlines of bellies on the ground, in a pile of leaves maybe, but all I saw were the small hoofprints all around the back area where the giant pile of leaves used to be. Maybe they were snacking on new blackberry cane growth, or maybe there was something good in the neighbor’s compost pile. I knew they might come up to the house and push their heads to the tomato plant I’ve got that’s going crazy now, suddenly flowering and budding, growing tall and almost wild — I knew they might come up and get a taste, since F! has seen their footprints in my lettuce pots behind the fence! It’s ok, though. They can have some and can leave me some. I’ve heard their feet clacking on the sidewalk, those dark hooves striking sharp and simple, like it’s a normal sound, deerhooves in my ears. They won me over.
I’m taking Fridays for writing days — starting this week. This means my Friday am blogs will be more likely posted on Friday pm. I spent this morning at the cafe, with the pen and the notebook, then created a list of all my current writing projects (of which there are 11: ideas that have been hovering for a long time, books/articles in progress, books in the proposal stage) and then I flipped through the printout of my novel and reread, dove back in, and did some more writing there.
This evening will have to be for cooking (quinoa tabouleh! hummus! squash & sweet potato soup!) and final prep for tomorrow’s Body Empathy, but right now is flipping through old notebooks to find other novel -writing I’ve done but haven’t typed up. And then — typing it up.
In the notebook-flipping, though, I’m finding other writes, from workshops or other times. One of those I want to share with you, along with a prompt.
"small flowers crack concrete" -- what a perfect tiny poem for today
Thinking about a life worth living, and I’ve got a quick write this morning — I like how this regular blogging practice gets me to type up workshop writes a little more often!
(Click the image to see more of Emily Mclaughlin's photos!)
How many times have I written this in the blog recently: there’s so much I want to tell you, and not nearly enough time? I’m sorry to have missed blogging over the last several days! During my trip from Friday early morning to yesterday, I was completely off-line (always kind of amazing).
from Dorian Katz's "The Hyena Report" -- click the image to see more of her amazing work...
I need to be at the bus stop in half an hour — yet, here I am in front of the computer and what should be, but isn’t going to be, my morning write. Some writing on the bus, maybe —
Last night was getting to hang out with the very amazing Dorian Katz and Poppers the Pony, and her/their students at Stanford; she’s teaching a class called ” Drawing the Imaginative Figure: Characters, Alter-Egos, Avatars and You,” which I just love; we did some writing exercises designed to bring us into our alter egos. I wish I could spend the rest of the semester with them, seeing what all they do with the characters they were embodying last night! Dorian’s a generous teacher and powerful role-model; imagine if you’d had her as a professor in college!
It’s freezing in the office this morning — welcome to winter! It’s hard to type when you want to keep your fingers wrapped around the cup of nettle-mint-green tea.
This morning I’m thinking of harm reduction, and how it’s self care. Right now, I have an agreement with myself: I can eat whatever I want, as long as it’s not wheat. That means, yes, I can buy the chocolate or the bag of popcorn that I’m going to eat all of, in exchange for not buying the piece of cake with the slab of frosting that will make me feel like a shaking sugar-wheat mess. I have not made this arrangement about sugar, just wheat, and just for right now. Just for right now. Just for today. Each day I can decide if I want to continue. My body is happier when it doesn’t have as much wheat to process — of course, it’s also happier when it’s not processing all sorts of sugar and not packed in and overfull, as can happen when I decide to feast on popcorn. But harm reduction is about choosing the lesser evil and going with that for awhile, to make it easier to live without the worse evil. And it is making it easier for me to transition away from wheat for a bit — and for that, I’m grateful.
Mostly, I think about harm reduction in the context of drugs and alcohol: let me smoke instead of taking a drink, right? But it’s a constant self-care practice and possibility, especially on the hard days. Let me watch just 3 hours of tv instead of 10. Let me be late for work because I did some stretching rather than beating myself up all day and living with this tension headache (that’s not really harm reduction practice, but it is reducing a harm). For some people, it’s let me give this blow job without a condom if I’m not going to fuck without one. Or, let me fantasize or write about this person it would be very bad for me to have sex with (maybe for emotional reasons, or because there would be other consequences) rather than having sex with them in real life. Sometimes a self-care practice is about incorporating the ‘bad’ decisions, in layers and ribbons, rather than deciding to be all of a sudden completely virtuous and perfect (then failing at that, then beating myself up). We all know that there is no perfect: There’s my imperfect humanness, right there with me every morning as soon as I open my eyes. Sometimes it’s eating the chocolate instead of drinking the four glasses of wine. And then later, maybe the body and mind are more accustomed to moving through the difficult process without the four glasses of wine, because they had a chance to practice. And for some people, the four glasses of wine are going to be the lesser evil compared to something else. For a long time, because I wanted to re-learn to touch myself and be ok with it, I would “let myself” fantasize about things that I felt sort of awful about after masturbating, rather than fantasize about the things that I felt really awful about afterwards — and then, later, my harm reduction was about moving away from things that I felt sort of awful about fantasizing about. Harm reduction is relative and always in flux, I think. It’s about being easy with yourself. Sometimes you can choose a kind of abstinence (I’m not going to do this thing at all, again, ever) and sometimes you can choose a harm reduction strategy.
(Please help us pass the word!)
First Congregational Church of Oakland
2501 Harrison St.
Note: this morning’s write contains some explicit writing around sexual violence. Just a heads-up: please be easy with you. xox, Jen
I’m in that very-tired place that comes just before bleeding, at least for me. So my thoughts are slow this morning and I’d like another several hours of sleep.
This month’s Writing the Flood is coming up this Saturday, 10/16: want to come out and write?