Tag Archives: dreams

trouble (morning write)

Good morning and good morning! Today the sun is working hard to push through the night’s fog. Is that a metaphor? Couldn’t it be so?

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Taylor Swift called me today and said, “I want your life.” I said, “I know, right?” She said, “Seriously, I’m just so fucking exhausted and everybody wants a piece of me — I mean, I’m twenty-three years old and I’ve got these old greasy music guys fucking creaming themselves over me, all while singing some sing about how they’ve gotta make me look cuter and younger for the little girl fans.” She sighed and took a sip of something. I looked at the clock, wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. It was 6:30am. I hoped she was drinking coffee, but then I heard the ice clink and figured straight bourbon. She’s a down-home girl, you know.

“You’re going to use this, aren’t you?” Taylor asked. Continue reading

let it dangle

sticker of flowers on a concrete beamJust write today. It doesn’t matter what. Just write.

The candle rests on top of the closed notebook and the morning pages go in here. This morning I am rushed and a bit shot through with panic; the dreams all lifted me into worry. What kind of sleeping is that?

What are last night’s dreams offering you this morning?

Today I will meet and talk and work mostly away from the computer. In the evening I will be with my cousin, and I will remember what blood is for. This morning I feel both tangled and loosed, like a collection of live wires all knotted up. This is what transition feels like, right? These are growing pains — this is me digging into my own potbound rootball, tearing up what hasn’t had air or food or enough room to grow. Today I feel like everything–all my ambition and desire — is hanging out, too visible, too naked. Continue reading

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

breathing into providence

Candle, genmaicha, and fast-moving fingers this morning — the puppy is just about ready to go out, and I got started late because I needed to have some notebook time.

(some straightforward language about trauma and violence this morning, just to give you a heads-up, my friends…)

This morning I am thinking about fear, and about what we do with it.

At the end of this month, I will be leaving my part-time day job, in order to open up space in my work life for Writing Ourselves Whole and for the writing that I need to do. I gave notice about a month ago, and spent the first couple of weeks in exhilaration and planning/idea-generation mode. Then ‘reality’ began to set in: What in the hell am I doing? Continue reading

take up each old need

graffiti of heart and flower and moreHere is the workshop write that I said (last week) that I’d share —

remember, the prompt was: “What would you do differently if you knew you only had the rest of your life to live?” (from “Mortality,” Marcia Davis-Cannon).

Did you write in response to this prompt?

How was that writing for you? You’re always welcome to share your writes here, in the comments section —

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This was my write in response:

You would dance. You would stop crying, hang the long sorrow up on the bathroom hook to dry, tremors still shaking its rough surface, you would walk away and lea e it lonely and damp, surrendered to its impotence.

You would walk out into sunlight, let fingernail scratches of heat bear deep into old wounds, into hardened muscles, greening something aged, something hiding and wizened, something grown grey with too much fear that lives deep inside the broad-branched muscles of your shoulderblades — it’s been lost for too many years, this old angry place, and just wants to breathe again, needs this photosynthesis; we are plants, after all.

If you only had the rest of this life to live, you would feed all the oldest hungers, the ones long locked away, the places in you that have held their mouths open for generations, all those dusty, pink-tongued, bitter-skinned children, the ones who didn’t show their faces, who you hid away, the ones who knew about lying and swallowing bile and crawling through the dirt and spiderwebs beneath the porch just to find some privacy and magic. If just the rest of this life is left, then why not pry up each of those dug in bodies–the one who wants to taste the smell of salt spray on an empty beach in Baja; the one who wants to taste the work involved to learn how to be really quiet inside; the one who wants to taste the love that might come if you throw off your armor and stand naked and fully violable, utterly protected and free, there in the middle of Mission St. on a Tuesday morning–why wouldn’t you take up each old need, gentle its dirty mouth open with your two long fingers and give in? Feed it. Feed yourself.

Why wouldn’t you turn up the music, turn down the volume on what doesn’t feed you, even if it’s what the parents and boyfriend and girlfriend and boss say is the absolute most important thing? If there is just this life in which to live it, why wouldn’t you put the dream, the hard rumor of passion, at center stage, right up front in the floodlights — the true dream that the six-year-old in you has been holding up high in her two hands for thirty-two years. Take that one.  Her arms are tired now, her muscles aching, her earnest, hopeful eyes tearing, purposeful — yes, this is maudlin, but you know what’s in her hands, what she wanted for this life, and you haven’t let her have it yet. Not all of it. Not that. So take it in your bigger hands and then wrap your palm over five of her fingers and let her drop her arms.

Don’t say anything. Don’t make any promises. She knows about words. Just take action, while she sleeps. Surprise her, this time, by doing what you said you would, to make her best dream ever, your best dream, come true.

(Thanks thanks — more soon!)

small steps

graffiti on a post: where do you want to start?It’s supposed to be 80 degrees in Oakland today — only in the low 60s in Dublin (Ireland), though. We have to keep track of these things sometimes.

The puppy won’t settle. She thinks it’s time for breakfast, and keeps pushing at my hands. She finds a treat on the table, and responds to my Off, but then paws at my leg to give her the treat for doing a good job. Smartie.

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In my dream, a bunch of us were going somewhere, like tour. We were headed to Africa, we were at a big airport waiting for a small plane. I realized, after the first leg of the flight, that not only didn’t I have my passport with me, it didn’t have my new name on it, and so I wouldn’t be able to travel internationally. Then I found the passport in my bag, and I handed it, my driver’s license and tickets or some other paperwork off to someone (Kathleen? Someone else on the tour?) and they were supposed to tell me if I’d be able to use it all together to travel with. But then whoever had the paperwork didn’t get back to me, we were hastying around the airport, trapped, the plane was about to leave.

There’s a lot more that I’m not remembering. That’s true about dreams, and the rest of life, too.

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I almost never feel like I have enough time for my writing. And yet, on the days when I could devote hours to writing or editing/other writing work itself, I generally come up with something else to do — of course, that’s the time to plan out next year’s workshop schedule, study for the GRE, clean up the deck, research new movies to add to the netflix queue, do a bunch of training with the dog. All of those things are necessary (well, maybe except the netflix one). None of them are writing.

That’s why I like short assignments (like Anne Lamott talks about), time limits, and generative writing workshops. Almost all the work I’ve performed or had published in the last 9 years began in a workshop — began someplace where I was focused only on writing, and just had enough time to devote to one idea for 20 minutes.

I struggle against time limits, feel constrained and endlessly put-upon; I never have enough time for this true love of mine! This might be true — and yet, in the short assignments that this blog makes way for, and that we do in the workshops, I’ve done so much more actual writing than in longer, multiple-hour sessions.

We create a little bit at a time, whether that’s art, craft, relationship, change, ourselves. I know you know this — I’m reminding myself here.

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We all know that quote about the longest journey beginning with a single step. It continues one small step at a time. Turn around for a minute today, take a look at how far you’ve come. Maybe let that be your write for this morning — what was the first step that you took toward your dream? Does your character have a big change they want to make? What’s the one small step they can take next toward that change? What small step could they take that they don’t realize, maybe, will be they one that takes them toward their dream? 10 minutes — give that to yourself today.

Small steps. Thanks for continuing to move forward, yesterday and today, too. Thanks for knowing that standing still is a step sometimes, and sometimes going backward is the right step. Thanks for your movement, your compassion and patience, your creation, your words.

what matters most

graffiti -- tampon with angel wings and a haloGood morning, grey & rainy — happy Summer-in-the-Bay-Area. It looks like a good day to get some inside work done, like maybe book proposals.

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One of the things I love about being closer to San Francisco now is being able to get 89.5 KPOO on the radio again. Tuesday mornings with JJ on the Radio & old-school soul music makes me feel like I’m home, reminds me of being in my little studio back near the Panhandle, the first apartment I ever lived in on my own, trying to figure out who I was going to be… (Please note: I’m still trying to figure out who I’m going to be — )

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Last night, or early this morning, I dreamed about being home, back in Omaha. My sister was there, too, and so was he. We were at that house on 57th St, we had to clean, we wanted to get out before he got home, but once we left to go to some appointment over near 60th and Dodge, we still had to contact him to pick us up. My sister still knew how to contact him. She didn’t remember anything in the city, though — we had to get something to eat, and we were in some building that looked down over the area. A Schlotzsky’s had moved into the space where some fancy restaurant used to be there on Dodge — I said, Look, Schlotzsky’s! Remember them? Sandwiches? We’d first gone to Schlotzsky’s during visitations with dad, way back when. She didn’t remember them, wasn’t interested. I touched her head, smoothed her hair, like maybe a mother would.

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This is maybe a morning of non sequiturs, though it also feels like a morning to dive deep into something and live there for awhile. Outside, it’s actually raining. That’s so rare here in the Bay Area, at least outside of rainy season. Usually we just get very very thick fog, fog so thick it drips and droops.

This morning I’d like to be wandering through the Haight with my notebook, my scarf and small gloves. I’d like to order a large cup of strong French Roast decaf that comes in a big wide mug, then go settle into a corner, open my notebook and write while watching the city people go by. KPOO could be on  the walkman, coming through my headphones. Let’s go back a few years now. Let’s cream the words out onto the page. Let’s make them, let them be, chewy, dense, unstrainable. Let’s let our morning get filled with the joy of arms moving, words thrilling through our fingers, new understandings emerging from the page.

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I’m a bit astounded and so very grateful to everyone who has donated so that I will be able to attend the Tomales Bay Workshops this fall — it’s been less than a week, and already we’re more than a third of the way there, almost half-way! Let me tell you a secret — this is the first writing workshop I’ve applied to, the first writing-related program I’ve done since college. Thanks to you all, I was able to put down the deposit.

16 years ago, I was lying on the rough carpeting in the tiny office that was all mine as the Tech Support person for ValleyNet ISP. The blinds were pulled and the door was locked. I hid out in there a lot. I was sobbing after finishing the last page of Bastard out of Carolina.

Now, finally, I’m going to get to work on my own story with the author who helped me do that work, get to that place of release and transformation.

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We used this prompt last night at the Write Whole workshop –we created short lists of body parts, and then prepended the phrase What maters most is, leaving us with a bunch of declarative statements we’d have to make some sense of: What matters most is a hand. We took 20 minutes for our write — you could do anywhere from 10-20, if you’d like!

Here’s my write in response to this prompt:

What matters most is this blood, 27 years of bleeding, the dark red funk, that iron rush — would it have filled a bathtub yet if we’d left it to its own, this body’s own, devices? Let’s say we squeezed out 27 years of obs and Always pads, wrung out the jeans and skirts and underpants stained, collected the remnants left in toilets or run down the shower drain? If I looked back at my human biology book, I’m sure I could do the math: some number of tablespoons every month multiplied by 12 months by 27 years probably doesn’t equal an Olympic-sized swimming pool but it did equal sheer power once upon a time

For years in my adolescence I was irregular, never knowing when I was going to bleed, couldn’t read any signs, just went from zero to stained my new white painter’s pants damnit, and in the middle of band practice too. I felt inept not being regular, wrong, like I was out of sync with nature, the earth, the moon. Women were supposed to all be connected, in rhythm, at ease with their tides. But here I was, could go a month with no blood, six weeks, then trickle then wham — I didn’t get regular til he put me on the pill at 16.

But let’s pay attention to the wisdom in these bodies — he stayed away when she was bleeding, didn’t want the smell to stain his hands or fingers (or moustache, I’m sorry) and so he would leave her be when she ran rust red into cotton, when she lay dormant with cramps — and because it could happen at any time, it was an excuse at any time. Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters — this was not a dumb body. This body knew wreckage was the only way to survive.

What matters most is the blood pooling, caught and captured, inside the panties of half the women at work or on the bus, the women you pass by on King street, the tidy tourists, the natty hipsters, the fancy Marina girls, all of us walking around clotted and clogged for a week out of every month because we want to pretend like we’re normal, like we’re boys, I mean — boys who don’t bleed. Can you envision this city, these stained sidewalks laced with blood that didn’t pour out of a wound, if women could bleed freely? Go back to all that clean blood — let’s not get into HazMat reality right now, let’s consider a society where women didn’t have to pretend like we weren’t women, where each of us could have our bodies and acknowledge just what was going on in those bodies — if we could make te monthly blood visible, maybe too we make the fibro pain visible, the cramps visible, the not-bleeding visible, the hormones cycling visible — maybe our reality gets pinched back out of the hands of people who would turn it into farce and joke. Maybe all that good red fertilizes our parks, tears open asphalt and concrete, drizzles trails down all kinds of legs and we are ok with our peculiar humanness — we are ok with the truth of our stains, our release, our relinquishing, the deep way our bodies know how to cleanse.

Thank you for the ways you honor what matters most to you, to those you love, even in deep and quite and unspoken ways. Thank you always for your writing and your words.

when do we let our dreams come true?

stencil graffiti, all green capital letters: Stop. Look upGood Friday morning! Here’s a longing for you, a hello from young lettuces, strawberry plants, new eggplant leaves, tall mint and basil, furry borage leaves, tiny, reaching arugula. No owls or deer on our walk this morning, though we did meet a couple of dogs, and at least one of them we didn’t bark at, so that’s some progress.

Last night I dreamed that my home, our home, was a homebase for a good friend (who, in this real life, just recently moved far away) — she was a world traveler who would come back and stay with us whenever she came through town. She had her own key, could let herself in, and I met her in the bathroom, when she was showering, and I was filled with this kind of deep joy to find that she’d come back. It was a sense that what we had was enough to share.

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Getting all prepped for tomorrow’s Writing the Flood! This is a fun monthly workshop, where you can join with fantastic community and dive into and play with your own writing. We have several spaces still open if you’d like to join us!

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This morning I’m thinking about what it’s like when you have a strong sense of your own presence, and an awareness that others don’t share that sense.

Sophie is teaching me about my presence. She listens when I’m here, as in, all the way in the moment with her. She doesn’t listen when I’m not here with her, when I’m giving commands from just my head or from just my frustration or ego. Then she’s gone, because I’m gone.

I thought about how often, in crowds, I disappear as far as others are concerned — people will walk directly in front of me without any acknowledgment, no sense or idea that they have just nearly interacted with another human. I have spent lifetimes feeling like a ghost. Who am I ghosting? Who’s ghost am I?

I think it’s this: when we give up our dreams, we become, at least in part, those dreams’ ghosts. The dreams don’t evaporate from the world. We carry always what passions lie in us unfulfilled, what desires festered in our bellies and hearts, what possibilities we turned inside out (in order to be practical) instead of following to their true ends.

Yesterday I talked with her about my lifelong dream to write books, and sat with the feeling that old dream manifests still in my body. Felt the longing and sorrow and fear. How to turn back and let the dream come to fruition?

What we pay attention to is what we care about, what we love and revere. I notice what I’ve been attending to all these long years that I haven’t been actively working to write/edit the books I want to publish. It’s been 32 years since we first knew what we wanted to do when we grew up, the 6 year-old in me says. We were going to be an author. How long do we have to wait?

Do we finish growing up when we let our dreams come true?

Yes, we got turned away from that desire. Yes, someone actively shamed us until we turned our heads another direction. Yes (I put my face in the cold water of it): we aren’t in that situation anymore. Could it be time to look back and let the dream (that old driving force, the place I felt I betrayed) come back home to us?

Today I have a writing project I need to finish and will send my book proposal out to another publisher.

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Are you working with a character who has some unfinished/unrealized dreams? Where do those dreams live inside them? What about you? Where do your unlived dreams reside? Take 10 minutes, begin with the phrase, “My (his/her/your/hir) dreams live…” — complete the sentence however you’re most drawn to, then follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thank you for your fidelities, your presence with and to and for what really matters to you, the way you have let your dreams become deep inner fires, and the ways that you let those fires blaze up again when it’s safe to do so. Thank you, yes, for your words.

stubborn and curious and brave

stencil graffiti of a person next to a huge balloon bubble that says, You Are Beautiful!

I love graffiti like this

Good morning! Up late last night means I slept in today — Two hours for one means a little less sleep than I’ve been getting recently, and so this blog feels a little sleepy.

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Did you hear about the hail-snow in Northern CA yesterday? It looked and acted like snow — some folks were able to make smallish ‘hailmen’ that looked remarkably like snowmen. A couple we saw on the news last night described the sky before the snow started to fall, that it was all blue to one side of their house, and to the other side, the sky was heavy and cloudy and dark. I thought, That sounds like tornado skies. Where am I living? Didn’t I leave tornado country?

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I’m looking forward to Writing the Flood tomorrow — right now, since leaving the steady workshop space in downtown SF, we’re moving the workshops around somewhat, trying out different spaces and feels. This weekend, we’re going to be meeting in a Buddhist Center in SF! I’m looking forward to that energy.

Also: if you’re in the greater Bay Area, go see Sins Invalid. Their fifth annual performance begins tonight in San Francisco and continues through Sunday. Sins “celebrates the power of embodiment & sexuality, stripping taboos off sexuality and disability to offer a vision of beauty that includes all bodies and communities.” It’s paradigm changing, life-changing, mind-blowing, devastating, gorgeous, deeply powerful, necessary — you can get tickets here.

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My father is visiting right now, and this morning, I’m thinking about time and change, about the ways that I’ve been able to mark my own healing and transformation. Looking back from now, one of the places I could track the shifts and openings in my psyche was my dreams.

It’s hard to remember back to the early 90s, when every sleep was devastation, when I could barely breathe in my sleep, when I couldn’t run, when I couldn’t get away or walk or move. And I thought it would be forever like that, I thought my stepfather would always be chasing me there, I thought I’d always fall to my feet, my knees, the ground, and have to pull at the grass or the banister to be able to move. I thought there would always be knives and that terror. I thought I would never be free of it.

And slowly it shifted, and I may have written about it, but right now, it’s lost to me, just when that opening happened, the first time I could, in my dream, walk up a flight of stairs without having to physically pull against the thick weight of dream gravity. When did it happen that my dreams changed, when I could run or walk freely, when I stopped having him there to kill me, when I started to act back? Most recently, in my dream, we were on a beach and I shoved his face in sand til he couldn’t breathe, and he ran away because he was afraid of hurting me. I was afraid of repercussions, too, and went someplace to hide, sort of (a public bathroom with open stalls – not a lot of hiding there), but he didn’t come for me.

It takes so much time, this recovery, this life. This life is a recovery, isn’t it? ‘Time heals all things’ is a wicked cliche, and has felt utterly unhelpful to me when I’m in pain and see no light at the end of any tunnel, am not even aware of being on a train anymore. And I don’t know that it’s true, that time is what’s doing the healing, but time is a measure and a manifestation of the breaths we’ve taken, the space we allowed for ourselves to change — and in that space, in breathing into and through the terror, the rage, the sorrow, the loss, the excitements the joys the possibility, our bodies got to keep moving, got to take in new oxygen, our cells got to recreate themselves, our bodies became new, over and over. And yes, like the soil at spring time, suddenly there was new growth in us where before there’d just been something frozen. And maybe it took several seasons for us to notice and maybe we forgot when it started, the greening of our barrenest places, but the greening happened just the same. Because we kept breathing. Because we are stubborn and curious and brave.

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What’s on your plate to write about today? Are you doing the 30 poems in 30 days challenge for National Poetry Month? Take the pen and the notebook, give yourself just a little time, think about those greening places in you, in your characters, places you maybe thought would never grow/feel/heal again, but are. You can begin with the phrase, I used to be ___ but now___ (or he/she/we/you/they used to be…)

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Thank you for your curiosities, your stubbornnesses, your braveries, all these resiliencies that have lived (in) you. Thank you for breathing into what hurts the most. Thank you, always thank you, for your words.

allowing ceremony

graffiti: a white flower, a bluebutterfly and a big purple arrow, surrounding the words, "planting the seeds of change"It’s a Monday morning here, and beautiful — slow blue filling the sky, and I keep my eye out for the deer that like to stroll along the hill behind our apt building, munching on grass and weeds, keeping a kind of watch.

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Thanks to all who came out for this month’s Writing the Flood! We had a fantastic gathering of folks in a new, gorgeous, peaceful space over in Berkeley — I’m imagining, for a time, that maybe we’ll move back and forth between San Francisco and the East Bay for this workshop. Our April Writing the Flood meets on the 9th, which is the second Saturday of the month — on the third Saturday, I’ll be celebrating good friends getting married, then will head south for the Body Heat: Queer Femme Tour!

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This morning, I am thinking about the ways that we who have experienced trauma, in maybe any form, reinsinuate, reintegrate ourselves into humanity, into our communities, into something called family. This maybe isn’t writing that I can do on the computer — it’s too big and messy for the containment of typed letters and a little blog box. I don’t have an answer to this question; I still, often, feel outside of humanity — not above, but other(ed), unwelcome. That there are people, and then there’s Jen. That, too, the people around me know something about being human that I missed out on learning during the years our stepfather controlled almost every aspect of our lives, essential things about being a friend, being a coworker, being alive.

How do we undo this experience? I know I’m not alone in this feeling, even as that’s the point of the experience: to isolate. Those outside of the pack get taken down by predators.

And intellectually, I know I’m not outside of humanity — I, too, know that some friends, who are not trauma survivors, sometimes share this feeling of being outside, being other.

So I’m curious about the ways we are welcomed back into humanity, if we are at all. I think there used to be ritual, in the old religions/spiritual ways/ways of human engagement — I think there used to be ceremony to welcome, for example, the warrior back home. We need those rituals now. And what are the ways to welcome the raped woman/man/person, the child abused and neglected, back into connection and community? Rituals that would apologize and make amends even as they washed and said, we want you here, if you want to be here. What are those ways?

What are the ways you have found, to reengage with community, to again let humanity feel like a part of who you are (if, indeed, you ever felt inside of that experience)?

I have found it through political organizing, through social change work, through creative engagement/writing with others, through risky conversations with friends. I have found it sometimes when I was drinking, when alcohol let me drop that inside guard down — now I want to find the way to bring down that inside wall without need of drunkenness/selfmedication.

But there’s more that I want. I want a ceremony. I want a gathering of all the people, all my blood family on my mother’s and father’s side, friends of mine and my sister’s from elementary school,. jr high, high school, college, after college, friends and colleagues of my mother and father and stepfather (but not to have my stepfather there at all) and I want to be on open land near the sea, and I want candles and sunlight and blue sky, and I want us to tell our stories. All of us. This is who I was, this is what I went through after my mother remarried, this is who I am now. I want to spill it all out and be free of it, let it be out of my soft gut and low intestines and throat. I want to know that they all, all these people, all these connections, all this human family, help hold this story with me. What happened to us happened to all of us, happened to everyone who loved/s  us, happened to our whole community. When does our whole community, our whole enormous extended (human) family, get the chance to heal? And then I want to know their stories. I want to know what I can hold along with them that is too heavy for them to carry alone. That is a part of my experience and understanding of community and family. I want us to be fed well and joyfully, to have times to walk by the sea and lots of time to rest. I want dancing and hugging. I want someone facilitating the process, someone knowledgeable in the ways of loss and ceremony and human desire and spirit; I want to know that something bigger than us is there, holding us all, watching and grateful or at least nodding.

This is a big fantasy, but it could be a much longer write, with much more detail. Fantasy serves us very well sometimes, allowing us to step into desire that we can’t or might not want to or aren’t yet ready to act out or have come ‘true’ in the physical plane. Sometimes, fantasy is realization, too.

If there were a ceremony that you could design, that could bridge your way  (or your character’s way) back into a sense of community and/with humanity, what would that look like? Who would be there? Where would it be held, and at what time of year? Climb into the details, if you want to, and don’t call it ritual or ceremony if that’s triggering or doesn’t work for you — use the language that you prefer and like. Call it gathering or church or party or — give yourself 10 or 20 minutes. Follow your writing wherever it seems to want to go.

Thank you for your persistence and generosity of spirit. Thank you for all the creative ways you have allowed humanity to hold you, even when it has disappointed and failed you. Thank you for your words your words your words.