Tag Archives: control

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.

on (not) getting messy

stencil graffiti of a bunch of mushrooms growing out of the concrete, painted at the base of a  post

amazing stuff comes up out of mess, when we let it...

Good morning! On today’s short short walk, we saw a long-eared jackrabbit, sitting quiet in the road (at least until he was accosted by a puppy), and then, so quiet overhead, slung the enormous wingspan of a great blue heron — silent amid all the cacophony of birds around us.

Right now I am sitting on the floor, legs in a diamond shape, typing over the puppy sitting in the middle of them. This is a good morning for sure.

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Just a quick one today, about messiness.

Yesterday at work, I was a mess. Exhausted and trying to focus while my sweetie and pup spent their first day at home alone together — I missed them, it was hard to focus on work tasks, not because I didn’t want to do them but because I was so tired. Then I got a message that brought the tears just erupting to my eyes (see the comments from yesterday’s post) and I tried immediately to stuff them down, to deep breathe them back into my eyes: Ok, Jen, it’s ok. Ok. But I couldn’t stop them, got up and hustled down the hall to the bathroom, where I patted my face with paper, breathed more, did not let myself sob.

But why not?

And then it happened again when I went back to my desk, the scene of the ‘crime,’ body memory takes over, we’re still not done with this feeling yet. I put on my headphones, redirecting myself. The internet radio station plays Moby’s At Least We Tried (which includes the lyrics, “Oh now baby, don’t cry / Oh my babe, at least we tried”). This did not help. I changed the station to KCRW, which was playing Peter Gabriel’s Don’t Give Up. Are you kidding me? I took off my headphones — and yet, it felt like a clean message from the universe: Go ahead. Break down.

But I didn’t. I let a few more tears come, because I couldn’t stop them, but I didn’t let all the sobs come: I was at work! We’re supposed to be together at work, not messy, not crying, not overly upset, not overly anything. Workplace is for modulation, where we ride that mild middle ground of feeling, never too much. People who are doing too much, we look askance a them, like they don’t know how to modulate their emotions.

We keep the feeling out, because people are easier to control that way.

I cried later, when I was telling the story to the Mr., and that was good. But why not just go to the bathroom and let my work-self get all messy? What would happen? I go back to my desk, red-faced and eyes puffy, maybe a little emptier, maybe one more wave in a long ocean of grief passed through me.

There are plenty of other places where I don’t want to get messy: this isn’t just about work. This is about those public personae, maybe about a white or Protestant-mainstream culture that devalues emotional displays as irrational, about being socialized as a woman and learning, quick and early, crying girls are not smart or respected girls (and let’s not even mention crying boys…). Even in bed, during sex, I mean, I worry about being messy: not my-hair-is-f-ed-up messy, but my-feelings-are-coming-out-and-I-want-too-much messy.

Messy is out of control, maybe that’s it. This is a trauma aftermath thing: learning to be ok with being out of control, and with what new growth can emerge from that release. Yesterday, I felt no control over those tears, they came up fast and immediate and were suddenly there — this is ongoing learning, how I let myself just be in all those different places, feel exactly what I’m feeling, remind myself, my inside selves, and even the people around me (should they wonder or worry): it’s ok, I’m ok, even when I look not ok. Even when I’m messy.

So, here, now, in these 10 or 15 minutes: what happens if you get messy, or for your characters if they get messy? What does that mean, that phrase: do you see physical mess, emotional mess? What do you look like? What does it feel like inside your body? What do you want when you’re messy? Follow your writing where ever it seems to want you to go — even if it doesn’t make logical sense; yes, even if it’s messy.

Thanks for your bravery, you deep innocence, the parts of you that can still splash in the mud: those are deep, creative parts, I think. Thanks for how you can be present with others’ mess. Thanks for your words.