Tag Archives: nablopomo

NaBloPoMo #4: you were not yet afraid of the world

This is another write from our Fearless Words group. For our prompt, we used Pat Schneider’s brief visualization, “In this one you are…” Imagine a photograph, and begin writing by describing the picture, starting with the phrase, “in this one you are…”

We had 8 minutes. This is what I wrote:

In this one you are that wild-haired girl with the square head who drapes herself over a birthday cake, sticking your tongue out, 3 or 4 years old, ready to sink your teeth into your mom’s homemade vanilla frosting and the yellow cake underneath. You were all energy and action and curiosity, such an enormous personality all through your childhood — your father could hardly recognize you when you got back in touch with him at age 21 and called yourself introverted. What? He said. You? And who knows — maybe no one could go through what you did and not land on the other side needing a lot of time a lone to sort out your own thoughts and feelings.

It used to be you said aloud whatever was in your head, almost any thought or feeling, even if no one was around, you talked to your many imaginary friends, to your dolls Rebecca and Jenny, to the muppets on Sesame Street, to your books, to your baby sister, to your mom who was so angry and scared and lonely, to your dad who was so distant and lost, you were all voice then. Words were some of your best friends. You were not afraid of the world yet — you had no reason to be. You kept your mouth open, stuck your tongue out, and tasted. I feel you in me still, so hungry and curious, unashamed, easy to laughter, open to the world. I bring you with me when I go into the garden, hike through the redwoods, let minnows nibble on my ankles, learn anything new. I am still so grateful for you.

NaBloPoMo #2: Writing while sick

… well, not sick. Recovering. Mostly. Better, anyway, than I was last week. Still stuffed up, not breathing right, headachy and sore. The ick makes writing challenging — or, more accurately, makes writing wholly uninteresting. When the brain can’t get enough oxygen, I find it’s difficult to form coherent sentences while speaking, not to mention finding the right words when writing. So, yesterday I conserved my energy for November’s first Dive Deep meeting — the rest of the day I rested.

Just now, I’m listening to a sixth-grade boy talk with his tutor about subjects and predicates, adjectives and prepositions — discovering the parts of the sentences. Do you remember diagramming sentences? It was one of my favorite things. (As I’m writing this, there are different feeling-memories percolating up. I think that’s a lie — I think, actually, that I wasn’t a big fan of diagramming the parts of speech, because I was always so anxious about getting the answer wrong and having my teacher think less of me. Ah, revisionist history; it makes childhood look so rosy.) Still it’s fun to listen to this conversation about what words constitute which parts of speech — I find myself wanting to interject my thoughts about the joys of prepositional phrases, but no one asked for my input on this matter.

Today was a small day, a quiet day, a day with some anxiety and worry in it, a day with some help and new resources, and a day with some sun and some garden. I spent a bit of time moving around the new nasturtium plants that have erupted in the lucky garden out front and in the back yard; I planted some mint, salvia and aeonium from cuttings. Little by little, the garden grows, even in winter. When I was transplanting one of the nasturtium plants, I almost dug up a daffodil bulb, which is already putting out its winter green. California seasons are madness.

I have some ideas about what I want to do with the daily blog posts this month, but I’m noticing this trend toward an evening reflection, which I’ve never tried before (either offline or on).

This has been a day full of birds. This morning, still waking (late: well after 6:30), I leaned against the bathroom window and watched a loft of pigeons flying against the pink-and-blue morning sky; they seemed to swell and fade, like an inhalation and exhalation, as they circled above the neighbor’s house, now and again disappearing behind the purple leaves of the plum tree. I looked around for a hawk, like I always do when smaller city birds are gathered in a flock and circling, but didn’t see any predators, at least above the ground.

Then, this afternoon, the hummingbirds took over the baring branches of the apple tree in the back yard, letting loose with their sharp snap of a cry before lifting off and into the pale blue sky. At one point, working out on the back deck, I looked up from the computer and watched as, about eight feet above my head, a hummingbird caught a tiny bug for lunch before zooming away.

Tonight, as the light fell quickly from the sky, I watched what I thought was a hawk circling the top of a pine tree over on the next block. She screamed, then flew away, in my direction — as she got closer, she looked more like a small falcon. She passed over the house and disappeared, left me watching her companion at the top of the pine tree, who sat still for several moments, looked out over her shoulder, then lifted off, spread her wings wide, and flapped hard, headed to the Oakland hills.

Maybe there’s something to be said for looking to the skies, listening to the birds.

Here’s to your words. Keep going. Keep flying.

NaBloPoMo #1: It’s Write Your Heart Out Month!

Happy November, everyone — 11/1 marks the start of write-your-heart-out month, no matter your genre of choice: National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo), National Blog Posting Month (aka NaBloPoMo), WNFIN  (for non-fiction writers), National Playwriting Month... check out this list of November’s other timed writing challenges, find your best fit, and get going!

As in past years, I’ll be NaBloPoMo-ing from here — getting back into a daily blogging practice with you all!

I’ve been home sick for the better part of the last week, and I spent all day yesterday in bed with cough drops, hot tea, and Paula Gunn Allen’s The Woman Who Owned the Shadows (Aunt Lute Books, 1983). This feels like one of those books I’m going to return to, repeatedly — and it joins my list of books that both describe and enact healing ceremony (the others being Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony and Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters — and I suspect Toni Morrison’s Beloved belongs in this category, too; I’ll have to add that to my list of books to reread so as to try and tease that out).

Just for tonight, as an opening to this month of words, I want to share a quote from The Woman Who Owned the Shadows, thinking about the struggle to find words for all that we want to be able to say:

“…she groped with her words and her thought to make whole what she could not say. She was obsessed by language, by words. She used the words she had lavishly, oblivious to their given meanings. She did not give to them what was theirs, but took from them what was hers. Ever she moved her tongue, searching for a way to mean in words what she meant in thought. For her thought was the Grandmothers’, was the people’s, even though her language was a stranger’s tongue.” (p. 70)

Here’s to the struggle and reach, the ways we delight in words even though they can never do all that we want them to, all that we need them to, all that they used to be able to do. Keep writing, all. Welcome to November.



(nablopomo #22) a complicated lucky

chalk graffiti on metal, "good luck" in script(There’s some explicit talk of sexual trauma in this morning’s post — just be easy with yourselves as you read, ok? xox, -Jen)

Good morning on this Tuesday– what’s lit for you already at this early hour?

There’s something in my body that’s coming alive, enflamed–I felt like I was glowing as I walked the dark hallway to the kitchen to put the kettle on, like the office was already lit before I put the lighter to the candle.

Today’s nablopomo prompt is this: What is the luckiest thing that has ever happened to you, and why?

I have a shirt I used to wear to readings, sleeveless and too tight, a thin green, with a fifties-type glamour girl’s face on the front, just above the word lucky. I especially liked to wear it when I was going to be reading about trauma. I thought it interestingly ironic. How could she be lucky? I wanted folks to ask themselves. Isn’t that kind of weird? But I did feel lucky.

Is it any surprise that my first thought was, upon reading today’s prompt, the luckiest thing may have been my mother meeting and marrying my stepfather? Part of my writing practice is to follow first thoughts, especially when they’re confusing or don’t make any sense. So here we go.

Today I want to get into the paradox. How can that be the luckiest thing? This man spent a decade building a small cult out of this little family of one woman and two daughters. He controlled my thoughts, or at least I believed he could. Get honest here. This was a man who took over my adolescence, who came into my life at 10 when I was a girl whose parents had divorced, when I was still devastated about what had happened to my life, when I was just beginning to be regularly sexually harassed at school, when I was beginning to learn new things about my body, when my body was becoming something other than just that steady conveyance — ten years old is small, bright, open, wanting, confused, self-assured, self-doubting. He was meant to be a mentor, a friend, even maybe a father-figure, someone who could be steady when my mother was crumbling, when my father was far away. He was meant to be another adult who could help me figure out the world. He was not meant to be a rapist (or lover, was the word that he liked to use) 0r abuser or analyst.  I broke away from him, finally, when I was 21, when I was prepared to die rather than move any further into the life that he was constructing for me, which, I’d come to understand, would include never being free of him, never being free of his assumed access to my body.

This is the luckiest thing that happened to me, this man? But isn’t there that voice inside that says, look at what rose up in you in response to the worst kind of violence? Look at what you know you can survive, surmount. More: look at what you have done with it, with the life you have left, with the life you had demanded of you — I mean, the life and body that he expected to feed on until he died. Look at this force you are, look at how you have done so much more than survive.

There’s nothing in me that is grateful that he lived, that his parents lived, that he was made to exist and that he breathes air in this world, still. I haven’t reached that place of forgiveness yet, and don’t have any especial desire to (except at the moments when I reach for the possibility of forgiving myself, and I can’t see how to do that without also acknowledging the possibility of forgiving him, and then I get stuck in the thick tar of that impossibility, and have to turn away from the whole notion of forgiveness and go take a shower — that’ll have to be another post) — and still, what to do with the sense of gratitude for who I am, who I get to be in this lifetime? A whoness entirely shaped by his actions — and, yes, by my capacity to react and respond and grow through and around and away from them.

Last night’s Write Whole workshop was one of those that left me flattened, devastated by what humans will do to each other, devastated, too, by what we have the capacity to endure and survive. These horrors aren’t the luckiest things that happen to us. (That’s something more than understatement.) But something in us that met those horrors and grew and lived anyway is the luckiest thing. Something in my sister that allows her to entertain the possibility now of marriage. Something in my mother that gives her the capacity still to go out into the garden and plant seeds, trusting that growth will occur, even after the hard winter, even after every unendurable loss. Something in my partner that puts on a tie and walks out into a world that can’t truly hold all his contradictions and beauty. Something in you that is still generous–even toward the thieves–when you have had every important thing stolen. Something in you that gets up, anyway, even when the world is insurmountably broken, that makes coffee or tea, that calls a good friend, that puts the pen to the page, that goes out into the work of your life. That something is our luckiest thing.

Is it lucky to be faced with the worst horror one can imagine, to be faced, actually, with unimaginable, unendurable trauma? Is it lucky to be left alive in the aftermath? What’s lucky is to have one another to reach out for (and to continue to imagine the possibility of that reaching), to have people with the capacity to witness, to listen, to hold your loss with you.

I don’t believe in coincidence or luck. I do believe in serendipity and perseverance. I believe in getting up and opening the notebook and writing anyway, even when there’s no hope in it, even when nothing can get fixed, or when that’s the only overriding feeling. Here’s what I’ve found over these (almost) twenty years of writing practice — things change without my working to make them change.  I just sit down and write it, which means I’m getting out of the way of life’s ministrations. So maybe the luckiest thing was having parents who read to me when I was a baby, having parents and then teachers who taught me to hold a pencil and make marks with it on a page.

The luckiest thing is inarticulable — the way that I would give anything to change what happened to me, and more to change what was done to my sister, and how, too, I wouldn’t change anything about who I am today. How do we hold that contradiction? What gives us the capacity to hold mess and cognitive dissonance, to be present with many different storylines and listen to them all? We’re lucky that way, I guess.

Want to write about luck today? You can take it in a completely different direction than I have — please do, in fact, if you’re so drawn.  Give yourself 10 minutes. What’s the luckiest thing?

Thank you for all the ways, all the ways, you still breathe — and offer breath, by choice, to others. Thank you for the layers and longings of your words.

(nablopomo #21) listening to the hungers

graffiti by miss tic: a slender woman standing, one hand behind head, head a bit bowed, next to the words: "Nous qui désirons sans faims"

Nous qui désirons sans faims: we who want without hungers

Good morning good morning — just enough time for a blog freewrite before getting ready for work.

This morning’s nablopomo prompt comes again from Ricki Lake: The Business of Being Born is a passion project that has been fulfilling on many levels. Are you pursuing a passion project?

A passion project. This time right here, this half hour at the computer, this getting up before the dawn breaks over the dark horizon, this is a passion project, isn’t it? Isn’t it necessary to have a deep desire in order to bring the bring the body with you into early morning, into the long call of words?

I would say that just these moments of writing are the places of much of my life’s passion right now. Then, of course, there’s the writing workshops. Those have been a labor of love for the last nine years, the opportunity to be with folks writing gorgeous and difficult story.

Every bit of writing is a passion play, work we do because we adore the moment when words hit the page, when the idea floats through the brain and we can press it down through our fingers into some semblance of living — no one tells us that this is what we have to do. We feel it in our bones, and so we sit down here and find room in our too-busy lives for this practice.

I’m thinking, though, about passion and hunger. What are you passionate about? What are you hungry for?

During the last several months, I’ve been exceptionally good at eating t00 much, too often, so that I’m overly full, so that my throat feels clogged, so that I can’t feel the places in me that are hungry for something entirely other than food (especially other than the terrible food I use for binges — I happen to be prone to safeway white cake and big bags of popcorn): hungry for writing time, hungry to publish, hungry to grow the work that I’m doing with writing ourselves whole, hungry for connection and intimacy (the scariest one), hungry for body work, hungry for embodiment. So much easier to eat than to truly feed my deepest hungers, than to sit with the vulnerability that they require of me, than to open my mouth and armor and let in the change that feeding these longings would bring about.

Well, easier in the sense of familiar and comfortable. Not easier in the sense of ongoing psychic pain. I’ve found, over the course of this life, that it’s possible to stuff and drink down and tv these hungers — the ones that press primarily at the inside of my throat, just below my collar bone, the one that live inside my chest between throat and heartbeat — for only so long. The stuffing (the eating bad food, watching bad tv, reading a book I’ve read a million times, drinking too much red wine) doesn’t make these longings go away — and goodness, don’t I imagine, every time, that my life will be easier if I can make them go away? I don’t know how many times I’ll have to learn this lesson: the hungers remain.  Old coping mechanisms won’t feed them. Listening and offering time and space, that’s what feeds these passions, that’s what eases up the lump in my throat, that’s what allows me to breathe again, to bring my life back to a (new) kind of balance.

Why so much fear? Of course, living into dreams means allowing change to come into my life, means moving out of my comfort zone — means living fully with discomfort, actually: all those voices that want to stop my growth go crazy when I’m stepping toward something I’ve longed for: the who do you think you are voices, the how are you going to make a living voices, the old ones that smell like my stepfather, the newer ones that smell like my dad, the ones that sound like teachers who just want you to make a rational decision.  But these places of longing and hunger aren’t rational. Embodiment, even, isn’t rational — it’s a completely different process, engaged to and with mind but beyond it, as well, beyond logic and 1+1=2.

I’m talking about 1+1=bird: that’s passion.

What’s so scary about following our dreams? What if we reach and can’t get there? What if we try and fail? Yes, that’s part of the terror. What if we reach and make it? Then what? What happens if we have to go on reaching for our dreams, have to go on being accountable for our lives? Whew. Talk about a sea change.

A prompt for today (I’m going to do this one on my commute in to the day job) might involve making a list of the experiences/dreams/goals you (or your character) are hungry for — what are the passions you’re living with, especially the ones you’re ignoring or running from. This list is just for you. Draw it in sand, if you’re afraid of someone else finding it. Type it up on the screen and then erase the words — but let yourself see that list. Then choose one of those items and write — what would it be like if you fed that desire, if you let yourself live into that dream? As much as possible, try not to focus on what you’re afraid of, but what’s possible — still, follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go. 10 minutes today — give yourself 10 minutes for your dreams.

Thanks for the joy and passion that you nurture within others, and that you allow to flourish within yourself. Thanks for your exquisite creativity, in all its manifestations, and thanks for your words.

(nablopomo #14) writing the wolf

graffiti of a shorts-wearing Little Red Riding Hood, next to the words "Fear makes the wolf look bigger." In the image, Red is placing a spray-paint can back into her basket.Good morning good Monday morning. Here, things are just beginning — it feels like they’ve been churning for hours: thin dreams, half-waking, in all the worlds at once.

The nablopomo prompt for today is another from Ricki Lake: I was terrified to go on DWTS, but facing my fear and overcoming it has been an incredible experience. Have you faced fears and overcome them?

There’s another prompt that my friend Ellen offered me recently: What would you write on a piece of paper that you were going to burn immediately after writing?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about facing fears in writing, and fears of writing. What are the places I’m afraid to go in my writing, and how do I push into and through those edges, write anyway? There are pieces of my own story that I never write, never talk about, never engage. They sit, still, bulbous, inside me, and I’m afraid of what will happen when I attempt to find language for them. Will I be up to their tellings? Will I be able to find the right words? Will it be too overwhelming for me?

The more I live into those questions, the bigger the wolf gets for me — right? Whatever the task, the more I avoid that task, the scarier it looks. Always. And then, nearly every time, when I actually just let myself take it on and do it, I find that 1) I am capable and can handle it (or can ask someone to help me, who is willing to do so), and 2) that it wasn’t as bad as I’d built it up to be. Mostly right now I’m thinking about my taxes. But there’s also this little business about writing something that terrifies me.

What do we do with the writing that we both want and don’t want, with the stories that we need and that we don’t want to commit to the page? What happens with these stories that scare us?

Dorothy Allison talks about the importance of writing in/to our fear, that what we’re afraid of holds an awful lot of energy, and that energy will emerge on the page, will transmit to the reader, will bring the story alive. We have to be willing to go directly into what terrifies us.  That will bring us naked on the page. We can use that energy, the energy of our fear, to bring the writing vivid and alive for the reader.

We pay attention to what we’re afraid of, don’t we? I can tell you how my stepfather’s face looked when he was getting angry, when he was shifting from Fine to Fucked-Up. I remember the nuances of the dining room table, the one I stared at during the hours and hours we had to sit there and confess all of our psychological workings, every thought and imagining. I remember my sister’s face, I remember how the light was in the house, I remember the qualities of silence in each room around his voice, around each of our own, how the house, his house, seemed to swallow us, the way he wanted to. Those details, when I can get into them, are important — they allow the reader to be there with my narrator, exactly in the situation with her.

Of course, this doesn’t just apply to writing that’s drawn closely from life. There’re fiction stories that scare us, too. What happens when you meet a telling, a character, who both draws you in and repels you? What happens when you let yourself all the way into her, anyway, even though you find her disturbing, even though you question what it means about you that you can imagine her so clearly? I think it can be useful not to analyze too much, but just to write it — don’t worry about where she comes from. We all have plenty of models of terrible behavior to draw from. Use your fear of her to show her vividly.

There’s power in the material we’re afraid of, and we can make it ours, we can take it back. All those stories that we’re afraid of, they’re ours now, just ours. I say write them, even if you need to tear out the pages after you’re done writing and shove them into the back of a drawer (I myself don’t advocate burning any writing, but I’m a packrat when it comes to writing — you do what you need to do.)

Is there a story you want to write that you’re afraid of? Pat Schneider gives this simple prompt: Write something that scares you. Take 10 minutes, go into it. Give me the qualities of light, expressions on faces, how the narrator felt in their body.  Keep to that time limit, whatever you set for yourself. Dive in, then come back out, and stop for today. You can come back to the story; there’s no need to push into overwhelm.

Then, after you write, do something excellent for yourself. Go to the ocean, get a coffee at your favorite cafe, call a friend and laugh. Celebrate your success.

You face your fears every morning — thank you for that. Thank you for the fears your writing names and shows, thank you for the ways you’ve taken that power back for your own use. Thank you for your words.

(nablopomo #12) be willing to be

graffiti of a pit bull terrier sitting in the midst of blue and green line drawingsGood morning, good morning –I’m feeling a little off-kilter this morning, not quite full. Maybe something in me is following the moon.

It’s one of those days when I don’t want to write, when I want to do anything but, when I feel overexposed in and to words, and so I want a break from them.

I’ve been up for a little while, wanted to get my blogging in early. I did a bit of journaling, jotted down a couple of dreams that I could remember, and then got distracted by looking up dog training info online.

The puppy and I need to go back to school. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a puppy update here. But nablopomo doesn’t give prompts for the weekends, and my freewriting at the moment is drawing me toward dog love and dog struggle and dog shame.

here we are at graduation from her first puppy class

As of the end of this month, Sophie will have been with us for six months. Six months! Next month she’ll be a year old. You might remember the panic and overwhelm I was in during that first month, how terrified I was, how I wasn’t sleeping enough, how being with her was bringing up feelings about my past dogs, especially the one I had as my sole unconditional companion during high school, during my stepfather’s abuse.

Sophie feels like part of family here, and a part of redefining family, at a time when the Mr and I are re-engaging with what family means. She’s a steady presence and still feels new — I find myself pressing my face into her warm brown puppy smell and thinking, Who are you? How did you get here? She is a part of our everyday-ness, a part of home, now. We’ve been through one dog-training class and now I think we’ve got the funds to do another. And it’s time.

Yesterday, at the end of a great walk in the hills not too far from our home, we were approached by a small pug and his mom. The pug may have been a puppy; he was a fraction of Sophie’s size. Sophie hunched down, like into a prowl, and came toward the dog from that stance. When they got close to each other, the other dog, wagging, bouncy, wanted to play, but Sophie was rough and aggressive. She was growly and wouldn’t leave off the dog when I called to her; finally I got her collar and got her out of the situation. She wanted to play, then, barked, wagged her tail, what’s the problem? The other mom picked up her dog, we exchanged a few words, I said Sophie was obviously still in training, we said that both our dogs were puppies. I knelt there on the ground with Sophie for a bit, wanting her to stay calm, while the other two walked away. I felt awful, sick, ashamed, frustrated and scared.

This is why we have to go to school, why I need more training — in those moments, sick and ashamed aren’t useful feelings. They’re triggers, or, really, reactions to feeling triggered. At times like that, I’m more worried about doing what someone else will think is right. How can I explain this? I’m back under my stepfather’s gaze, being watched and judged, and get reacty and panicked. I’m not thinking clearly any more than Sophie is.

The triggered feeling is so old, and I want to move with and past it. I want to trust the parts in me that invite me to do something different, but that I often ignore — trust, that is, the connection between me and my dog. I want to know how to interact with Sophie in those moments, before we get to the dog, to the situation that’s freaking her out. There were many different things I could have done in that moment, well before she got into a fight, but I ignored them, hoping that she’d be all right, even though she was showing me signs that she was in an odd mood with respect to that dog.

The shame that blossoms in me, it takes over everything, is a bright wash of red-orange, isn’t any help at all. It coats the inside of my mouth and all over my skin, tingles me unapproachable. We will go out again today and try something different (treats, leash, redirection, practice, practice, practice).

I have a note that reads be willing to be uncomfortable stuck to  my computer monitor. I have it there because I need reminding, encouragement, sometimes a push, to do the things that are important to me — and getting there often means moving through discomfort, often, deep, thick, bodily discomfort. I’m reminded of the thinking I do about safety, and about safe space — that I can be safe in the midst of change, in the midst of reaching beyond my comfort zones, in the midst of doing something that pushes all my buttons. Just because I’m uncomfortable doesn’t mean something is wrong. Sometimes it does. I’m learning to listen differently, learning to tell the difference.

There’s more to this, but now it’s 12 hours since I began this post, and I need to get it out. The puppy and I had a good and uneventful walk today — I brought more treats, did more training practice, she got to chase the ball and eat hot dog treats. I’m scared, reaching, and grateful.

Thanks for your practice, for the ways you hold your own growth. Thanks for your patience and presence with others’ discomfort, how you allow others, sometimes, to be present with yours. And your words, too. Thanks for your words.

(nablopomo #11) 11.11.11 is magic and veterans (thank you)

pisces image, two fishes tail to tail and mouth to mouthGood morning — the puppy just woke up. We’re on a slightly shifted schedule this morning.

Here’s the nablopomo prompt for this morning: It’s 11/11/11. Make three wishes.

I don’t understand the magic around 11/11/11. I mean it’s a fun date, but it seems like there’s more going on for folks. I remember my college roommate, freshman year, lying on her back and waggling her hands and legs at 11:11am one day; she told me it was good luck. I’d never heard of that. The next time I was conscious of 11:11, I followed her lead, and felt ridiculous, but also a little bit hopeful.

I don’t have to understand to believe in magic and luck and possibility and synchronicity and wonder — I’m a Pisces, and that’s part of what we do. Believe.

Last night I pulled a tarot card from our Medicine Woman deck and got the totem of stones (snake). In the Medicine Woman deck, she’s replaced coins or pentacles with stones; in a traditional deck, this would be the knight of coins/pentacles. This card feels steadying right now, at this time when I’m both planning to grow writing ourselves whole into something bigger and more sustaining next year and making important changes in my creative life — being a novice Tarot person, I get from some of the interpretations I’ve read: encouragement to settle in to the (deep, underground) work, and recognize how every step I take is connected to a larger whole; digging in and trusting the work, even if it goes slow. And then there’s this, from the Medicine Woman book: Disintegration, death, and transformation are part of the cycle of life. The snake has always been the symbol of eternal energy and transformation, Healing comes by destruction and rebirth. The old skin is shed and a new one is ready. Life continues.

A new one is ready — not coming. ready. Here’s one wish for today: That I may continue to learn to hear and trust and attend to that inner voice of instinct, the one I had to ignore for years, the one that leads me in the right direction even when it’s painful, even when I don’t understand, even and especially scared that if I listen and attend, my dreams will come true.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

November 11 is also Veteran’s Day. This is one of my wishes: that all veterans of all wars receive love and abundant care every single day –all wars means those who have served in battle as a representative of a government, means those who fight in the war against women and children, means those who are survivors of the war against people of color and immigrants, means all survivors of violence, means those fighting in the war against the 99%. May all of these veterans receive the care and attention they need and deserve. May they all be remembered and honored.

There was a man shot last night in Oakland, near the occupyoakland encampment; he was the 101st homicide victim in Oakland this year. These are veterans of a war, too, so many of us don’t often remember.

The other part of this wish is that our government end all ongoing wars and not begin new ones — end the wars now and bring all soldiers home. If you care about veterans, you don’t wish to create more of them.

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I’m going to do some writer self-care today: after I post the blog, the puppy and I are headed out for a hill walk, we’ll have a little breakfast, and then I’m going to the cafe for at least an hour of notebook writing. It’s been some weeks since I had a long stretch of freewriting in the notebook — I want to be back in my body the way I can get when doing that work, and am longing to feel connected to my thoughts, to learn more about what’s going on inside.

Here’s a third wish, a selfish one: that there will always be spiral bound notebooks and rolling-ball pens. That there will always be exactly what you need, too, to do the writing you like the best.

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So you’ve got several prompt ideas for today:

– three wishes in honor of 11/11/11 — what would yours be, or your character’s?

– how do you or your character relate to veteran’s day?

– what is the skin ready to be shed in your life (or your character’s)?

– what does writer self-care look like for you?

Take just 10 minutes, more if you want. Write straight through, no stopping, no editing. Trust the words, your good words.

Thank you for your beliefs and skepticisms. Thank you for your ongoing practice in listening to and being able to hear the wise voice inside you. Thank you, each day, for your words.

(nablopomo #10) ready for the story they want to tell through me

graffiti of Ganesh, the elephant-head god.Good morning! I’m here again this morning in the chilly dark — it’s time for fuzzy pajama, warm and thick socks, putting the hood up on the hoodie while I’m writing. In the mirror across from me, I look a little like a monk. A sweatshirt-hooded San Francisco monk. There’s a Ganesha batik hanging on the wall just behind me, so in the mirror, there’s Ganesha’s eyes, and then below, there’s my bent head, face lit blue by the computer screen, everything else dark.

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After yesterday’s endless post, I’m going to keep today’s shorter. This morning I finally got back to my novel, put in 1500 words, a good re-entry. It was the first time I’d opened the file since returning from the Tomales Bay workshops. I said I came back charged to do more work with my book, and that’s true — I also came back a bit overwhelmed with how much work/rewriting/going deeper there is ahead of me. It wasn’t a surprise to me, but I got to touch it while I was there, touch the time and effort that was going to be involved in returning to some of the pieces of the novel I’ve already written and opening them up, pushing further in, letting the stories and scenes fall out. The pace, the storytelling: I have to slow it all down. This scares me, too. I like to push it all out, fast, shove the words past you, whether on the page on at the mic, and then maybe you hear one or two things that really stay but there’s not a lot of time for interrogation, for a thorough inspection. What I got at Tomales, what my writing got, was a thorough inspection. These 12 smart, strong women writers told me what I needed to hear: slow down, show us more, let us be in it. (They also said: we care about these characters, we want to read more. That‘s a pretty great thing to hear.) Over the last couple of weeks since getting back, I’ve felt overly confident about my book, and then terrible about it, and I haven’t been able to get back into the story — I’ve been scared.

The book, at this point, is entirely comprised of morning writes, the freewriting that I do first thing after I wake up. Sometimes in the morning I can get deep into story, but often I sketch out what’s happening, stay more in the telling than showing. During this morning’s write, I thought more about the feedback that we gave each other in that big meeting room at Tomales, the one with tables laid out in a square and windows all around looking out at Monterey pine and hills — over and over we said, show us more here; don’t tell us how we’re supposed to be feeling about the scene — show us the details, let us feel how your character is feeling through her/their actions, movements, what their face or body does, how they eat, how they sound, how they smell. Give us all that story and scene, and then trust us to understand without your having to spell it all out for us. Trust your writing to do that work.

Doesn’t it sound straightforward? But it’s so hard to go slow. This morning I pushed into a scene, dialogue and interaction, that I could easily have dispatched with in a couple of lines of expository prose: and then they talked and it was hard. I could have told myself, while I was writing, I’ll come back to this and explain more. But instead, today, I practiced the showing.

It feels good to be back to these women. I like them, and don’t like them, and am looking forward to writing with them again, now that I can practice being more open with and to the story they want to tell through me.

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Today’s nablopomo prompt from BlogHer is: What is your secret (or not-so-secret) passion? This is a guest prompt from Jean Kwok.

(Hey! I won one of the BlogHer weekly prizes — books from Penguin. That’s pretty great!)

This would be a great list-making prompt: take a few minutes and jot down your passions (or your character’s passions), both the ones that everyone knows about and the ones that you keep to yourself. Let yourself choose one of these and describe it to us —

My list might look like this: writing, reading, experimental cooking — and then I’d get stuck for awhile and look around the room. What else am I passionate about? Tall shoes? Yes. Being present with people sharing their words, engaging and believing in the power of their voices? Yes. Honesty around sexual trauma and sexual healing? Ok, sure. Any other hobbies or hidden things, Jen? Not much. In that way, I’m kind of boring.

I’m passionate about the beauty of queer folks. Am I passionate about the Midwest That feels almost like a contradiction in terms; midwesterners (maybe I should say white, protestant midwesterners) are uncomfortable with too much passion.

I’m a passionate romantic, which has it’s positives and negatives. The Mr. knows about these. I’ve been passionate, too, about survival. I’ve been passionate about drinking, had a love affair with alcohol that has shifted in recent years, and that’s ok with me.

The ocean. Ok, that’s easy. And the puppy. Can you be passionate about a dog? Is that allowed? City walking is a passion. Ethiopian food. See, sit with it for a moment, and the truth of us starts to flow out.

What about your list? Which one would you write about today? Remember, you don’t have to show the list or the writing to anyone — this is just for you, first and foremost.

Thanks for your passions, all of them, even the scary ones. Thanks for the ways you let your passions shift and grow, take up room in your body and then move through as your attachment to them fades. Thank you, every day, for your words.

(nablopomo #9) how deep are we really ready to go?

graffiti of a girlchild holding on to a bunch of balloons, which are carrying her over the wall the graffiti is painted onGood morning good morning. The wall heater has just kicked on, so I can’t hear the owl that I was about to describe to you — s/he’s out in the pine trees, maybe situated near the top, maybe watching the moon, who-who-whoing every now and again, waking up the air around me this morning.

How is it where you are? I ask this every day, and here’s why: 1) I’m curious (and if you wanted to tell me about it in the comments, I’d love it) and 2) I think it matters for our writing, to know how we’re situated, I mean the details of place, what and where we begin from.

(A note about comments: I love them and am so grateful when you write here. I’m not always able to respond right away, but the responses mean so much to me, and I want to offer a public thank you right here.)

There’s work to do, a talk for next week to prepare (how do you define liberatory, after all?), but I’m here with this quiet page, quiet music, quiet cold air, not quite into the day yet, because it’s still dark out, so that means we’re in the inbetween. Night, early morning, isn’t that the inbetween?

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There are big things I’d like to write about this morning — including the sexual assault awfulness at Penn State and the way sexual violence is being used and ignored at #ows encampments. When does this writing happen?

I set my timer and am just doing it. These subjects don’t go away, but public interest in them does, fades, shifts to the next best public horror. At Penn State, they’re apparently working with the model of the mainstream Catholic Church, which means, allow the pedophile to continue to have access to the children, and to use resources and facilities for his violence, but work, always work, to keep it quiet and hidden. Then they said, well, just don’t do it on campus. Yes, thank you. Take it home, don’t do it here. That way, we’re not liable. We don’t have to call you out or fire you. We don’t have to be accountable.

The truth is that we have plenty of precedent for this, not just the catholic church. This way of engaging power is all around us. Is this part of what the #ows movement wants to change? This is certainly part of the privilege that the 1% wants to hold onto, that many in the 99% also expect to have access to.

Why is anyone surprised at this behavior, at this story? The fact is, I want to be surprised. I want to be horrified. I’m not. It doesn’t feel like a calloused or cynical thing, more like familiarity with what goes on behind the surfaces of perfection and ostensible ethics. (You’ll remember, or some of you won’t know, that my mother’s second husband, the man who violated all of us, he was a child sexual abuse therapist, who wrote articles and small books about treating CSA) — The thing I heard on the news about this coach,  the one who covered for the pedophile, was that his ethics were always impeccable, everyone counted on him to do things the right way.

How do we learn to trust people again, when they never give us the chance to?

There’s more. Don’t stop. I want the details of this story, I want all of those people, those men, the men who colluded with this violence, the men who made it possible for all those boys to be raped, I want them fired, I want them held to account. Maybe jailed, but better would be a public remembrance — don’t forget. What does transformative/restorative justice look like in this case? Do they need to sit in a room with the boys and their families and listen to the damage that they were instrumental in causing? Do they need to not just apologize but provide financial restitution? They wanted to distance themselves from this man’s actions but somehow also, for reasons I don’t understand because I’m not a sports person or because I’m not a man, they wanted to keep him around. What do they have in their own closets? Why not fire him as soon as they learned about the abuse, the violence? Why are the priests moved around from parish to parish instead of fired, released from duty, sent to a monastery where they won’t have access to children, something? What is the investment for those in power, if not  so that those in power can continue to render themselves blameless for their own violences?

Why do we continue to expect more than violence from those in positions of power, when they show us, over and over, that they will violate our trust, our skin, when given opportunity — when we see, over and over, that those around them will shield them, not us.

This is where it gets complicated — we want to change how financial resources are distributed, in and with and through this movement, but we don’t necessarily want to give up our white privilege and we don’t necessarily want to give up our access to women’s and children’s bodies (& to men’s bodies, too). Is that it? What part of cultural revolution doesn’t include a revolution around engagement with racial violence and sexual violence? Deep change means giving it all up, means letting go of the places where you had unearned power and privilege, also — without knowing what will happen after you open your hands and bodies and release.

If the movement doesn’t deal with these structural, cultural places of damage and pain, it will disintegrate. First, because the ‘new society’ being created will look awfully the same to folks of color, all women, all children — change that comes for white men isn’t the only change we need. Second, because those in power, the 1%, will always say that they want to protect women and children, and will use the issue of sexual violence as a reason to attack and dismantle encampments — not because they care about protecting anyone from sexual violence, mind you, but because they want the movement to go away. We’ve seen this already, at occupyoakland and elsewhere.

What are we fighting for at this time of revolution? How deep are we really ready and willing to go?

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The nablopomo prompt for today is this: When was the first time that you realized that your home was not like other people’s homes? I have an old piece of writing to share, in response to this:

I was hunched up against the night, sometimes. I watched all the lights go on inside.  I looked in shamelessly, walked my dog through quiet neighborhoods where nothing was happening inside the houses that would make you want to call the cops.  I looked in and watched dinner times, I watched rooms turned blue flickering with television, I watched straining and want.  I passed by.  I never stood there. I passed by.  The crickets were nighttime and I was safe in them. No one was baking bread. That was a long time ago, back when the fields were real and the houses were wool and the streets outside were gravel and cicada shells swollen with puffs of cottonwood trees, swollen with something. Possibility. Hope.  At 5, there’s nothing but.  At 5, there’s nothing but.  Later, though.  Then.  Now.  Teenager in crimson pants or nothing.  Teenager in bright green anger. Teenager gliding through nothing like hope anymore because the concrete has thrown itself up into roadblocks.

Where can I go with this story, tell the drama of those walks and all they meant for me. They were like a movie but worse, a long-going soap opera, a hope for something new, no, just escape. They were a movie where I’d never be interrupted because it was all in my own head.  This was near the university, not so far from Elmwood Park, where I only went alone when I was older and I learned there was nothing to be scared of, nothing scarier than I might find at home.  This was why I hated winter.  Walks were circumscribed.  The dog got cold and so did I and I hated being all bundled. I hated the ways the windows got frosty and kept me out; I couldn’t see inside, could just see the blue flickering against the ice on the windowpanes.  A pristine kind of privacy. Winter kept me locked out., and in.  Winter kept me too hot in my own head with no time away for distraction.  No crickets.  Still no bread.  Just the cold against the fingers.  Just the frost heaves, just the grass turning dead but still green, too poisoned, too fertilized.  What were those walks but forays into aloneness? What were they but desperation?  I’d defend myself when I got home, learned to gauge what was too much, too long. An hour? Mid day summer vacation only.  Nighttime?  Strictly ten minutes or less, unless I was pushy.  And I usually was.  That was my problem.  Half an hour with the dog meant half an hour of relative freedom, some new breath, something unsupervised.  Not free.  Just unwatched movements, when I could watch alone.

Want to use this as your prompt? Give yourself 10 minutes, just 10 minutes, set the timer, put the pen to the page, write straight through, don’t stop and don’t think/edit/censor. Let the words come. More than you might imagine can emerge in 10 minutes.

Thanks for all the questions you’re asking, the places you’re holding open for answers to emerge. Thanks for your deep engagement in complication. Thank you for your words.