Tag Archives: connection

What about Interdependence Day?

mural of African-American boys and girls playing instruments with joy!There’s a little bit of cool outside right now — the last few days have been so hot, I’m reveling in this bit of mist and ease.

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I’m rereading Jeanette Winterson’s Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery in bits and starts. Last night I got back to this section:

The healing power of art is not a rhetorical fantasy. Fighting to keep language, language became my sanity and my strength. It still is, and I know of no pain that art cannot assuage. For some, music, for some, pictures, for me, primarily, poetry, whether found in poems or in prose, cuts through noise and hurt, opens the wound to clean it, and then gradually teaches it to heal itself. Wounds need to be taught to heal themselves.  (1997, pp 156-157)

I would urge anyone who loves words, who is interested in the life of art, of the artist’s life as art, and/or who wants criticism as something alive and daring to read this book (and, of course, to read all the rest of her books.)

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This morning, I’m wondering what our country, this USA, would look like if we marked and honored Interdependence Day. What if it mattered that we need each other?

Yes, it’s important to take note of the day on which you broke free from an oppressor  — do you know the date/month/time of year of your own personal independence day(s)? — but here’s the next thing: no one ever actually breaks free alone. We decide, ourselves, that it’s time to take a step toward freedom — and we always have (had) help to get there, in one form or another. What if we honored and recognized that help? What it it wasn’t seen as weakness to stand with others, to allow others to help us? What if our country honored all the ways that we truly depend upon each other?

The myth of American Independence, the pulling-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps thing, that’s an entrapment; it’s just a lie. We all have helping hands, whether in the shape of friends, family, community, characters in books, art, tv shows, stories from movies, class or race privilege, trust funds, education — if we find ourselves getting free, it’s because we have had it made known to us that free is a possibility. Who showed us that option? Who were our role models? What characters or foremothers or stories did we tuck under our hearts when we felt the most ensnared that began to chew and gnaw at our bindings, that began to push our face toward the sun of our own power? Those desires and makers-of-possibility, those who held our hands whether they knew it or not: we need to remember and honor them as well.

Back in 1993, my list would’ve included: my mother, my sister, the characters in Macho Sluts by Pat Califia, the characters in Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume, my dog Katja, Molly Millions from William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Kata Sutra

Let that be your write today: for 10 minutes on this Independence Day, write about who and what helped you get here now — you might begin with the phrase, “This is who/what got me (her/him/us/hir/them) through…” or start by making a list of the people and characters that brought you (and/or your character) through the fire, and then choose one or more of the items from your list as a place to start. Follow your writing wherever it seems to want to go!

Thank you for the ways that you have been a guiding light for others, for folks you’ll never even know. Thanks for the ways you honor all your inspirations. Thank you for your creative power, your vulnerable strength, your resilience, your words.

releasing the alone-ness

graffiti of the words "You are not alone," in a circle, around a group of birds, flying together

love this graffiti of the Icarus Project logo -- check them out, if you don't yet know their work: http://theicarusproject.net/

It’s wet and grey here, and I’ve been listening to the foghorns all morning. What’s it like where you are?

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This Saturday, March 19, is Writing the Flood! Come on and write with us!

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This morning, I am thinking about alone-ness. I don’t mean the fact of being by myself, but rather isolation: that sense that I am — what? — without companioning, without the possibility of companioning. Deeply without anyone to help or be with me.

I’m having a hard time with this post today. I started it more than four hours ago, and have found everything else to do instead of write it: read email, make a difficult phone call, respond to messages that have been waiting for a month, post on Facebook, make some actual breakfast, read blog posts … it’s all easier than this writing.

We many of us know about the tactics that abusers use on on their prey — a major one involves secrecy and isolation. Tell no one, and, too, no one is here to help you. No one can save you, protect you, fix this. There’s a way that we learn to root in our own selves, a sense that we are all we have to count on (Well, we can count on the abuser, too, can’t we? We know who they are and what they’ll do, even if what we know is that they’ll act in unpredictable and abysmal ways): we take into our bodies… am I using the we again when I  should use the I? — I take into my body the understanding, the knowing, that I’m alone in this life, in this survival, this experience. Other people aren’t trustworthy, they don’t show up, and you can’t be honest with them if they do.

This takes a long time to unlearn, as it turns out. Like, decades, for some of us. Others might get it into their cells more quickly; I haven’t. It’s hard to let go of pieces like this, that may have become core parts of our identities.

In this process that I’ve taken into my hands (in some ways, quite literally) to allow myself to be more fully embodied in 2011, I have had a sense of “sinking” into old and painful ways of feeling (it’s difficult to write about this stuff, because the body is outside of language in so many (of its) senses): the familiar numbness rises after an intense session in therapy, and that numbness has a recursive effect, both assisting isolation (it’s difficult to connect through the numb) and furthering it.

What I want to tell you is that yesterday I was surprised with a houseful of people who gathered to celebrate my birthday. I’m overwhelmed by this, still; still wanting to let it all the way into my skin, into my organs, into my breath: it matters to these folks that I am alive; it matters to me that they are alive. This isn’t about reaching for complements, about some emo-y place (maybe a little emo-y), but more about that teenage girl who wasn’t allowed to spend time with friends, who didn’t learn how to *be* a friend, who has grown up into someone who had to do that learning later, with much effort and scarring.

I don’t like writing about the alone-ness, the thing inside that says, there will never be anyone to meet you here in your humanness. Who believed that the man who raped me was the only one who could ever know me as flawed and smart and complicated– who decided, there will be no one, then, if he’s the only option. Isn’t that a terrible thing to believe? How many of us still live there?

I am still peeking into the bright light of outside, the fresh, fierce light of other faces who are also imperfect and brilliant and human, these friends who hold space for me to go away from and return to.

The isolation is a hard thing to release, let go of, let fall from my skin. I have grown to trust it implicitly, and can still be uncomfortable and raw in this connecting with others. So I could not be more grateful for the people who are willing to be patient, be present, be human with me as I learn to accept my own human skin and self and body. We are radiant in that complicated self — I can say that to you. Can I let it be in me, too?

There’s more about this; there’s always more: like, what happens when we don’t have to be perfect, when we quit expecting perfection from those around us, from our communities, our friends and lovers? But for now, I’m holding a concentrated and throbby thank you right at the base of my diaphragm, deep inside, where tears start (ok, a little emo-y), and I am just grateful.

Thank you for all the ways you have saved yourself, and, too, for the ways that you have allowed others to reach into the locked and messy stuff that is your full and brilliant heart, and the ways you haven’t turned away from the beauty in you that only they could reveal to you. Thank you for your gorgeous and daring words.