Good morning over there. I’m going to work to get this blog post written before the puppy wakes up and begins poking me with her cold nose. Here I got all accustomed (after ten years I still haven’t learned not to get accustomed) to those sweet warm mornings we were having, and now it’s chilly again. One good thing about living in the Bay Area is getting to complain all the time about the fantastic weather we have.
This morning I’m thinking about writing and the ways we use writing to save ourselves and the way that writing sometimes can become a site of re-iteration, the way that writing can be difficult. A few years ago, I noticed that I was, in my morning pages, writing over and over (and over) about a situation in my life that I was unhappy with. I wrote into it and into it, I told the same stories over and over, I began to discover patterns and understand what I needed to do for the situation to change — and then I hit repeat: write the stories, look at the patterns, see through the words what I need to do to change, but I didn’t do those things. Instead I just kept writing. And the writing began to hurt. I didn’t feel as good after I finished writing. I stopped wanting to go to the notebook. I stopped wanting to hear those stories. Never mind that the writing (along with other voices) was pointing me toward a solution– I wasn’t ready to hear it yet. Continue reading “writing when the writing’s hard”→
I’m just beginning the first of many re-reads of Annie G. Roger’s A Shining Affliction — I want to tell you about it, but I don’t know if my words are far enough away from the story to really get into the details yet this morning. I can’t do a book report or a review yet, although I’d like to. I do know that it’s re-sparked my curiosity about and interest in Lacanian psychoanalysis (which got fully opened when I first read another of her books, The Unsayable: The hidden language of trauma, a couple of years ago, and has been lingering and touching my terror of it ever since).
this morning I have story after story I want to tell you, and I am too scared and stuck to open my mouth
What are the languagings for that experience? I’m aware of being badly in need of help, and not knowing why anyone would help me, and, while I’m feeling all this, experiencing, too, that self above the self that watches and is curious about it all: where does that certainty of not being help-able, not being worth helping, come from?
I want you to read her work and then talk with me about it — I want to go to where she is and study with her. This feels too exposed, writing this, naming my desire for a teacher. This is all so layered, in a culture that values (the myth of) individualism and sees any request for help as a sign of weakness.
One thing that happens with this book (A Shining Affliction, I mean) for me as a reader and a survivor of trauma and a facilitator of healing/transformative spaces with and for others, is that I’m offered the opportunity to be imperfect, un-cured, incompletely healed, as I move forward in my own work. That it is ok to still be wounded and healing (and doing your work around that wounding, of course) when you are working on holding space for others to do their work. I get stuck around that sometimes: I feel I should be entirely well, fixed — and that, if I’m not, I risk doing harm to others, those in my workshops; no, that, in fact, I am harming them, period. That I am harm. (That’s some old stuff.)
Of course, who, in this culture, is entirely well? And, separate from that, isn’t it true that the “healer” who is aware of and working on hir own stuff is providing more safety for the folks ze works with, because ze is more able to see hir triggers and ‘stuff’ as separate from the other person’s stuff? And we know that the isolation of those who experience trauma contributes to this feeling of being both unsafe and unhelpable. (How’s that for distancing language? I mean to say, the ways I was isolated during my adolescence contribute to this sense of having to do for myself, still learning the muscles required to reach out for help.)
I would like to be more articulate about this this morning, but I have to get ready for work.
What would you like help with? In what areas do you feel unhelpable? Can you write out the help you (or your character) would like, in as much detail as possible?
Thank you for the help you provide to others, and the ways you allow yourself to risk letting other people help you. Thank you thank you for your words.
A short post today — I was reminded this morning that setting the alarm is all well and good, but you’re not likely to hear it if you don’t also turn it on. So I had just enough time to do my three morning pages before it was time to get ready for work.
I want to talk with you about creating play spaces (I’m in the middle of re-appropriating a part of my home as a place just for creativity and play), movies about following one’s creative instincts (we saw the visually-stunning Book of Kells this weekend, which I didn’t know was a real object d’art ’til I went looking for more information just now), and roadtrips as regenerative practice.
And maybe tomorrow morning I will be able to — for now I want to offer you a prompt for the day.
The prompt is this poem by Martin Jude Farawell; read through it and notices what comes up in response for you — begin with whatever voices or images arise as you’re reading, or begin with the phrase “If I…” (or “If he…,” “If she…,” “If you…”):
If I Sing
If I sing, I weep.
If I sing joy, even sing joy, I weep.
If I weep, if I weep, if cries splatter from me,
if I sputter snot and spit
down my chin, my shirt, your shirt,
if I shake and shake until you fear I’ll shake apart,
don’t be afraid for me, don’t be ashamed;
I will not break from this, will not die,
but from lack of it, from the closing,
and I will not close anymore, will not deny anymore
the child I was who could not
cry out has kept crying in
me. And now that I can cry I will sing,
even if my song comes shoved out
on the wave of snot and spit I swallowed not
to cry, I will sing.
(Thanks to John Fox who introduced me to this poem this summer at the Healing Art of Writing conference)
Here’s my response to this prompt:
If she’s been drinking, she cries. Jocelyn doesn’t drink much, but when she does it’s with a purpose. She heads to the one par in her area that could conceivably be called a women’s bar, the place where all the cowgirls pour in to for Budweisers and whatever game is on that night, for their drama and electricity, even though the owners will never hang a rainbow flag out front or send representatives to the gay pride march that happens every August about 50 miles away in Northampton, even still, the owner does keep a bat behind the bar for any local boys who get it into their heads to fool with his good clientele come closing time, and the women grumble about one more man who thinks he has to protect them, but they keep frequenting the little bar with the torn stools and bad ’80s disco on the jukebox.
And Joss goes there, too, ’cause she wants the company, ’cause it’s a place where most of the women she’s talked to or worked with at the shelter will not show up, and so it’s a place where she can slowly sip her way into a gentle disintegration.
The bartenders know Joss, keep her bottle of bad Canadian whiskey full so they can make her cheap whiskey-n-Cokes like she thinks maybe her folks back home would be drinking. She doesn’t know the folks back home, left before her stepfather was done with her and her sisters, which meant she left before she could find her own kind of connection with her kin, her cousins and uncles and aunts. That thought, just exactly that sort of thought, starts the tears pooling, pulling them up from the ache in her shoulders, up from that always-knot in her belly. She folds tired strong arms on the scratched and worn bar, she takes long gulps of her drink and she starts to fight back crying while she watches the women gather and fill up the bar with too much need and dust.
Someone puts “Gloria” on the jukebox and Joss thinks about how much she wants to be easy with people the way these women seem to be with each other. Some of them know Joss, just recognize her stony presence, how familiar she is there, her face wide and weary, crow’s feet just beginning to pull at the edges of her dusky hazel eyes, and always looking like she’s about to cry. Joss’ll smile, or try to smile, at one or two of the women, nod, then order another drink.
She doesn’t come out to this bar often, and she doesn’t come but for one purpose. After three or six of those whiskey-n-Cokes, Joss’ll be in her car, door slammed shut, head on her hands, sobbing — the kind of crying that sounds like someone’s trying to relinquish their guts through their throat, the dark night clutched tight to her shoulders, alone, hoping this time, finally, she will be able to get it all out.
Thanks for the ways you make room for your grief, and also make quiet sparkling room for your joy. Thanks for your words. Thanks always for your words.