Tag Archives: nostalgia

“tonight I clearly recall/every little bit”

male cardinal in a maple(?) tree(just a note: language of sexual trauma and regret in this post — be easy with you, ok?)

It’s late on a Sunday evening, and these are my morning pages, left till the end of this traveling day. Thunderstorms this evening: bolt lightening creasing across the sky, and claps of thunder so loud they stop the heart for a moment. Such a spectacular welcome.

Last night at this time I was contorting myself in an airplane seat — we were in the row right in front of the exit row so our seats didn’t recline, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to get my body comfortable enough to let itself fall asleep. I read and read, my eyes drooped, I yawned and the words on the pages blurred, but when I turned off the light and closed my eyes, my body held itself hostage. An old move. All I could do was adjust, adjust, adjust, adjust, but nothing worked, so I showed up at Logan a mess of sleep-deprivation and rage. Another old knowledge. Used to be, that’s how I’d arrive at Logan every time — returning to the East Coast after a visit home to Omaha while I was still in school, having spent a holiday or term break or several months living under my stepfather’s world order: no one ever got enough sleep, and the job of the female bodies in the house was to light around in a state of heightened anxiety and panic that was only released when he actually proposed to rape one of or when he exploded with rage. Then something in us could relax — we didn’t have to anticipate the worst anymore; it was already happening.

Anyway. I’m on vacation now, and I didn’t mean to get into all of that. In this case, some twenty-plus years later, waiting on in the muggy early morning thickness outside Logan for the shuttle to the rental car center, I felt my tension starting to slip out of my body. Sure, I was overtired. Sure, I was angry that the stewardess had woken me up to put my tray table up (and seat backs, she said by rote to those of us in our aisle, though we hadn’t had the luxury of even being able to lean back the 10 or 15° they allocate in coach these days) just when I’d finally fallen asleep. I was in Boston again, in that tension-strangled city that still had, for me, been a site of outlet and possibility back when I was in school (even though it was also a site of an assault so — heartbreaking, I guess, that it’s one of the few I actually have no memory of, even though I was well into my 20s when it happened).

Why am I talking about all this? Don’t you know: coming to the east coast is always coming into the overheated body of my past — the place where I hit bottom, tore my self free, and began the long work of choosing, day by day, to keep on living even though I couldn’t understand how or why I was going to make that happen. This was the place I earned I could live without family while also expecting myself to know how to build one. This was the place where I started swimming out from underwater and into the turbulent terrain of adulthood, having been given no tools except for the ability to flirt, lie, and act so well like everything was fine that nearly everyone I came into contact with me believe dit. And those who didn’t, well — they did their best to hold me anyway.

I wanted to talk about vacation, how happy I am to be back here, back in Maine, back at the ocean I still think of, in some place in my body, as home, the first ocean I ever met. And I am happy to be back here. No matter that being in New England also layers me thick with nostalgia and regret. On 95 up from Boston (and after the requisite first stop at Dunkin Donuts), we caught one of the college radio stations at the low end of the dial — the early morning dj played Patty Griffin’s “Every Little Bit” and one more time I was driving alone through a heavy Maine night, 29 years old, newly married and facing the possibility of parenthood, laid low by a crush on a woman much younger than me which had wrenched me open with exhilaration and despair. Of course I told my then-wife about my crush. I wanted to tell her everything — “liberty is the right not to lie,” remember?

How do you, if you live long enough to be able to look back at all the selves you’ve been, find a way to forgive yourself for being, though exactly who you needed to be in order to survive, an almost complete asshole?

I sang in the car this morning, my body remembering the words, filling my mouth with the lyrics before my conscious mind could remember them. I tried to turn the volume all the way up, to fill the car with bass and guitar and the tear of Girffith’s voice, but I’m not driving, and my sweetheart says, that’s too loud for me. Oh, right — I’m not driving alone, all the windows down, singing as so loud that my throat hurts, then reaching down to slam the rewind button so I can hear it again, again, again, hoarding myself, trying to get something I don’t — didn’t — have words for out of my body.

We are settled in here for two weeks on the Maine coast — vacation like I’ve never had before in my life: not for family, not for work, but for self and relationship and relax. We walk the beach, looking for sand dollars and abandoned hermit crab shells. How can I help  it — I look out at the waves, remember sitting on the shale at Two Lights with notebook and water bottle, trying to earn the right to be there in the middle of a weekday while my then wife sat at a desk, “consulting,” whatever that meant. I was meant to be freelancing, figuring out what it meant to be a writer. And I did write, some — then stopped, mesmerized by the waves, the thick greyblue, layering in sheets of pressure and energy up from the heartbeat of the earth to roll onto this coastline, endlessly.

I said recently to my ex-wife, I’m sorry I was such an asshole. She sort of laughed, said I was being hard on myself. We haven’t had yet the sort of lay-it-all-out argument we maybe need to have to let us say things like that to each other. But I can write more about that another time.

There are cardinals in Maine now — I can’t get used to it. Cardinals didn’t live here during the thirteen years I lived in New England. Cardinals belonged to the midwest, and were, for me, a harbinger of home. Cardinals — the males so bright red they look like flames searched up at the ttreetops, ends of branches, on powerless and telephone poles — were my companions when I was a girl. I learned to sing their songs, and talked with them on the way to and from grade school. They stayed in Nebraska when I left.

But now I come back to Maine, and find cardinals at the feeder in the yard across the street, find cardinal song pulsing through my back brain as I walk up from the beach. Cardinal song and waves all swimming together at the same time, how can that be? I know there’s environmental reason for this, something probably to do with global warming, but I can’t help also thinking it’s some sort of sign — something about letting this place of freedom and heartbreak be home anyway, to trust the place in my body that falls open when the plane touches down at BOS or PWN, that says, You made it back. You still get to be free.

still coming out

Today is National Coming Out Day — one day a year that celebrates the endless, sometimes joyous, sometimes boring, sometimes devastating process of coming out as queer, as gay or lesbian or bisexual, as trans* or genderqueer, as someone other than the assumed and accepted straight, gender-normative persons we tell ourselves we are supposed to be.

So, happy Coming Out Day!

The idea, once upon a time, was that this would be a day when we would support one another coming out to someone new — maybe we weren’t out yet to our parents, or to our grandparents, or to others in our extended family. Maybe we hadn’t yet come out to our dearest friends from high school or college. Maybe we weren’t out yet at work. Maybe we hadn’t told housemates or classmates. Maybe we haven’t yet actually come out to ourselves.

Maybe we had very good reasons not to be out — there are always reasons we don’t tell people about our sexual orientations, and at the top of that list is usually fear of violence and fear of rejection. Those fears didn’t come from nowhere. They rise in us naturally and wisely when we hear the stories of others in our community who were put out of their homes, left to fend for themselves as young teenagers, after their parents found out they were gay. We hear the stories of friends beaten for their queerness. We understand that there is risk to this demand to be seen and understood and accepted for who we really are.

In 2013, kids are still being put out of their homes for being gay. Kids are still targeted, harassed, bullied, shamed, beaten for their queerness — whether actual or assumed. Female-bodied queerfolks are still sexually assaulted by those asserting that the rape will straighten them out. We are still being queerbashed. We queerfolks still battle the idea that we are predatory, child molesters, hypersexual, and deviant. We are asked what made us this way. We are asked to keep ourselves quiet: why do you have to be so blatant?

Still, many of us, I think, when we come out to those we love and who love us, find that we are still loved and accepted after we have said the words. Often, our families and friends tell us that they already knew or wondered if we were queer; they were just waiting for us to say it. They wanted us to feel safe enough, or trust them enough. This coming out, then, eventually deepens our relationships with them.

Some of us aren’t met kindly — which is why we need a community around us to hold us up and help us heal until we are ready to go back out into the world again.

My own coming out didn’t follow a usual trajectory, and it’s full of trauma story, and I’m not going to tell it all here. When I was in college and participating in the queer student speaker’s bureau (for which we had another, certainly more interesting name), I told the sorority sisters who brought us in to give our presentation of Real! Live! Queers! that my coming out had been easy — it had been a surprise to me when I found myself flirting with, and then kissing another woman, but it felt so natural to me that I just let myself fall into it. It was No Big Deal. What about your family, the young women asked via 3×5 cards we pulled out of a hat (so that no one had to be seen asking questions of the queers). My family is fine with it, I said — there’s so much else going on for us, it’s the least of our issues.

That was sort of true, and also not even a little bit true. There are the coming out stories we tell, and the ones we don’t tell. When I first came out as queer, I was twenty and still under my stepfather’s control. I tried to keep my queerness a secret for as long as possible — I didn’t want him to have more information about me to use against me, and I didn’t want him to have someone else to take away from me. He found out eventually, of course, and told me that I wasn’t allowed to be in contact with the woman I’d fallen in love with. He (a psychotherapist — and, let’s not forget, rapist) insisted that homosexuals were narcissists with mother- or father-issues, and said I’d better just come home and work out things with my mom. That’s not what happened, of course — I did have to go home, but he had other things in mind for me to do.

Eighteen months later, I began the process of escaping from his control, and began coming out to myself as an incest survivor. Eventually, I was an out and proud queer woman. I transitioned to butchness, as so many queer women do, at least for awhile — sometimes because it feels authentic to their gender identity and sometimes because we want to be seen and recognized as actually queer.

I didn’t feel shame around my identity until I came out to myself as femme just over a decade ago. Back in my twenties, I’d read the old stories about folks coming out to themselves as gay — the men and women who stared bleakly into the mirror, tearing at their cheeks, saying to themselves, How can I be like that? One of those? One of them?

I couldn’t understand it. I came out in 1992, and the community I found myself surrounded by was full of joy and rage and power. We battled for acceptance on campus and then danced hard into the night. Who wouldn’t want to be one of these? I was proud and felt lucky — I get to be queer.

And then, when I was in my early thirties, I came to understand that butch didn’t fit me anymore, that I really was just a regular, gender-normative girl. Then I understood shame and horror. I was not proud to be a femme, not at the beginning. I’d worked so hard to be butch, to be visible, to be a real queer — and I felt I’d failed. It took a couple of years to find my pride in my girl gayness — that’s another post, another coming out story.

Coming out never stops, not if we’re lucky. We are always discovering new layers and possibility in ourselves — identity is always a story in flux. What coming out has presented itself for you this year? What’s your coming out story? Are there folks with whom you’re not out? Why? What part of your coming out story haven’t you told yet? Write into the idea of “coming out” this morning — give yourself twenty minutes, and follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thank you for coming out — to yourself, first and foremost. Thank you for your generous presence when others come out to you. Thank you for your stories today; thank you for your words.

Read more posts about Coming Out:

snowflakes and shouting and safe hearts

graffti of a red heart, vaguely realistically drawnGood morning to you, over there. Are you warm enough? Keep that scarf on — don’t catch a chill.

I’m thinking about the people I love who are in the Northeast, who are in the middle of winter already, who have been without power, who are well under this new snow. I’m remembering why I left, and I’m nostalgic for the chill of it, the work of living there, how strong I felt, bundling up against the cold, digging out, stirring the coals in the woodstove and blazing it up each morning when I came down into the kitchen — add paper and kindling, then one log, then three, get it really going. Then I’d pour my coffee, settle at the kitchen table, write into the daybreak. No power meant no electric heat or gas, I don’t think, because those were electric-powered. Maybe the gas heaters would work, but we couldn’t use the fan to spread the warmth around (not that the fans worked all that well, anyway). Not living there anymore, I’m left with the romance of my memory, chapped cheeks, sharp and bright red, coming in to work at Stone Soup or Family Crisis, how I was bundled in a plaid barn jacket and boots, hair shorn, smiling at everyone in our shared burden of cold and ice and snow. I forget the deep depression I fell into every  winter, the seasonal affect business, how the cold got into my bones and wouldn’t leave, how I felt I couldn’t get warm, not ever. That part I don’t miss, I don’t even let myself remember. I miss the deep dark of rural Maine, and, too, the way the night spread itself bright through the woods when the ground was covered with snow, how I stood at my bedroom window on full-moon nights and the backyard was as light as midday with the reflection back up from the sparkling, ice-coated white.

Be safe over there, friends. Send me some snowflakes.

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Today’s day 1 of NaNoWriMo 2011! You can write that novel — are you joining in?

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Two poem-prompts for this morning, maybe to use to kick off your novel writing practice:

Pericardium
by Joanna Klink
Am I not alone, as I thought I was, as I thought
The day was, the hour I walked into, morning
When I felt night fly from my chest where prospect had
Slackened, and close itself off, understanding, as I thought I did,
That the ground would resist my legs and not let them
Break nor let them be released into air as my heart, in its
Muscle, might be released from the body that surrounds it,
Like someone who, placing a hand on a shoulder's
Blade, felt a life move inside an hour and a day
Break from the day the hour meant something more than weakness,
More than fear, and flew forward into the depths of
Prospect, your arms, where you'd been, before me, waiting
For me, the way the body has always been waiting for the heart to sense
It is housed, it is needed, it will not be harmed.

and one more, from Kwame Dawes:

Talk
by Kwame Dawes

            For August Wilson

No one quarrels here, no one has learned
the yell of discontent—instead, here in Sumter
we learn to grow silent, build a stone
of resolve, learn to nod, learn to close
in the flame of shame and anger
in our hearts, learn to petrify it so,
and the more we quiet our ire,
the heavier the stone; this alchemy
of concrete in the vein, the sludge
of affront, until even that will calcify
and the heart, at last, will stop,
unassailable, unmovable, adamant.

Find me a man who will stand
on a blasted hill and shout,
find me a woman who will break
into shouts, who will let loose
a river of lament, find the howl
of the spirit, teach us the tongues
of the angry so that our blood,
my pulse—our hearts flow
with the warm healing of anger.

You, August, have carried in your belly
every song of affront your characters
have spoken, and maybe you waited
too long to howl against the night,
but each evening on some wooden
stage, these men and women,
learn to sing songs lost for centuries,
learn the healing of talk, the calming
of quarrel, the music of contention,
and in this cacophonic chorus,
we find the ritual of living.

I invite you to read these poems aloud. Think about using one or both of these as your writing prompts for today — grab lines or phrases that stay with you, that spark your imagination, like:

waiting
For me, the way the body has always been waiting for the heart to sense
It is housed, it is needed, it will not be harmed.

or

find me a woman who will break
into shouts, who will let loose
a river of lament, find the howl
of the spirit

and begin there. Show me what comes up for you as you read those lines, what voices you hear, what memories arise, what vision or fantasy or story. Follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go! Take 10 minutes, at least — then give yourself another 10, if you really get in to the writing.

Thank you for the eloquence of your deepest heart-voice, the one that never stops telling the truth. Thank you, always, for your words.

Feel the joy in this present

graffiti - woman and moon through tree branchesGood morning! Here I am with you again — it’s been several days!  I’ve been notebook writing quite a bit this week, and also sleeping a bit more than usual, so I haven’t had time for both the notebook pages and blog both.

Monday was the Solstice — the light is returning! Was there a way that you took note of the holiday?

(Have you seen this video of the lunar eclipse that coincided with the solstice? Look at that red — pretty amazing!)

Winter solstice, lunar eclipse, and mercury retrograde — quite a lot going on astrologically. What it’s meant for me is a need to slow down; a deep need. As soon as the pressure starts to build (get it done! worry! stress! panic!), something in me deflates — that’s how it feels. Deflates. And I have to go in a corner and read a book until I can breathe again, until the panic button has stopped flashing.

There are times when panic/stress will motivate me to accomplish tasks. But at other times, panic just isn’t a useful motivator. Especially not at the holidays — there was just so much stress around Christmas when I was a teenager and young adult, I don’t have room for any more. It’s like I’m still filtering that old stuff out. So packages go out late and cards don’t get ordered or sent and I know that everything’s going to be ok. Slow steady steps — I talk to friends, I write a little bit, go for a walk. The panic drains out and I can function again.

There’s so much pressure at this time of year to be happy, to be joyous, to return the Merry Christmas-es, even if you don’t celebrate, even if you’re not Christian, even if it’s not an especially Merry time. And for those who are easily Merry-ied in December, there can be some anxiety, knowing that others aren’t having a great time, knowing that this time of year can be triggering or sad.

In her most recent newsletter, SARK wrote about giving ourselves permission to feel whatever we’re feeling at the holidays; it’s ok to be joyful, ok to be lost and sad, ok, too, to move from one to the other to something else in rapid succession!  She includes some lovely self care strategies, including adjusting and lowering expectations, educating others about how to care for you, really thinking about what you need to feel good and ok during the holidays (and then providing those things for yourself!). Sometimes it’s radical self-care not to do any holiday-ing at all!

I know I get caught up in wanting everything to be perfect — perfect tree, perfect cookies, perfect presents, perfect perfect perfect. My muscles tense up, just writing all that out. We know there isn’t any perfect, of course. But my inside kid (yes, I said it) is still waiting for xmas & santa to make everything all right. My inside teenager remembers that whatever wasn’t perfect was just going to trigger a fight and a long, long, long abusive talk.

So for me and those kids, at my house over the next week, we’ll have some good-enough to replace the perfect, some movies-at-home and cookies and cocoa, some popovers on xmas morning and time with friends, some time by the ocean, some wishes for 2011 written out and read aloud and offered to the sea. We’ll have some warm baths and body-tending time, lots of candles. Maybe some dancing time. Maybe a trip to visit the snow. Good coffee and lots of veggies. Some gifts and some experiences-as-gifts (disappearing gifts!). Lots of writing. Lots of deep breathing and maybe some tears (let the past and the now wash through). Letting myself feel the nostalgia and missing, and letting myself feel, too, the joy in this present, in this now.

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What about some prompts? If I’d been in a workshop on Monday, we would have done some writing about light: either with a candle flame as a prompt (light a candle and take a moment just to be quiet with the flame; notice what voices or images or memories arise as you watch), or maybe beginning our write with the phrase, “In a dark room, the light…”

You might also want to write out your own most self-cared-for holiday vision: what would this time look like if you centered your own well-being?

Let yourself choose whichever of these is most compelling to your writer’s self right now, give yourself 10 or 15 minutes, and write.

Be easy with yourself this season. Go slow, if you can. We’re all doing big work. Thank you for your gentleness with others, and the way you allow others to be gentle with you. Thank you for your words.

Mostly weekended: baking, writing, nostalgia

photograph of colored lights and pine needles

Love this picture of Sarah Deragon's -- brings me right home. (Click on the image to see more of her amazing work!)

It feels like this was a very long weekend — partly because I actually weekended for most of it. I was off of my computer all day yesterday, didn’t sit down in front of it one time, barely even went into the office. There was baking and party-prep on Friday, Writing the Flood and then a wonderful gathering with good friends on Saturday, and yesterday was a full day off: movies and cookies (with a couple of errands thrown in, just to get out of the house).

During the errand running, we had to make a stop at OSH. When we came out of the store and back to the car, there was a young boy hanging out at the new Prius next to ours, opening and closing the doors. I came around to the passenger side of our car, next to him, said hello, looked for his people. He was there alone, and it became clear that he was developmentally delayed. The Mr went back into the store to look for his people, while I stayed at the car, wanting to interact with the boy, wanting to see if he’d come inside, wanting to make sure he didn’t back up into any parking-lot traffic. He would open the door, close it, then kind of cheer, delighted. He had a lovely face that kind of opened up into itself, is that right, or it was as though something was opening inside him that didn’t make it all the way onto his face when he was delighted, or worried, or pleased. An adult came our way carrying a box, and the boy said it was his father — I told the man we were worried about the boy because he was just hanging out in the parking lot, alone, and the man said that the boy had told him he wouldn’t get out of his seat. And so, not knowing this relationship at all and not being a parent, it’s pretty easy for me to judge the situation, think, “and so you listened to him and left your child alone in your car in a holiday parking lot?” He thanked us for our concern, and we, still worried, watched them go.

(I remembered that my sister and I used to stay in the car together while one parent or another ran into a store — the Mr points out the difference between one kid in a car, and two; and even leaving the two of us alone in the car wasn’t necessarily the safest thing, though I know parents sometimes do what they have to do. Still, I’m holding that boy and want him to be safe.)

And when we came back home, I started with my baking. On Friday, I made french bread and a coconut milk-pumpkin pie (with homemade crust); Saturday morning I made the first batch of spritz; yesterday I made biscotti and spicy double-chocolate cookies; and prepped the dough for thumbprints, pinwheels and more spritz. Still need to do the shortbread and Russian tea cakes.

We got a live (or once-was-live, now cut and living in water) tree for the Solstice, and put up lights this year; it’s been several years since we got a tree — but I’m feeling awfully nostalgic this year, wanting the smell of pine in the house and missing not just family, but possibility and the details of our early holidays, from Before, when all the aunts and uncles and cousins would get together at one Grandma’s or the other, and it was the one time of year that we got to see everyone. All the parts of the holiday, the celebration, were the same every year, and so what changed was we ourselves: around the same tree and the same ornaments, the cookies and songs, and trip to church was the fact of the cousins’ growth, all the kids growing up, slowly learning how to enter this world. And then my sister and I were pulled out of that trajectory. As far as I was concerned, it just continued the same without us — as though, maybe as though, we’d never been there.

During the last couple days of my Grandma Cross’ life, family gathered around to support her, support one another. At one point, my cousin A pulled me aside. She was holding her small baby in her arms, this new generation that needs protecting. She told me that Grandma used to buy us gifts every year, still, during all the time that we were “gone,” just in case. She would pull my cousin aside and tell her where the gifts were; she could run and get them if Sarah and Jenny came that year. We both were crying as she told me this. How had it not sunk into me, yet, that maybe my cousins had been affected, too, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles: worried, unsure what to do, keeping to tradition and making changes, moving, growing all around the edges of those traditions, too.

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A prompt for today, one that we used as an intro exercise at the gorgeous Writing the Flood group this weekend:  Write about a holiday tradition. (It doesn’t have to be a winter holiday tradition; it can be your own tradition, your family’s, one you’ve heard about, or a character’s.) Writing about holidays can bring up strong emotions, and as a result, can be really interesting material. Give yourself 10 minutes, see what comes!

Here’s my write from this weekend:

The traditions are faded and fainting and fractal, multiplicitous. I remember trees thronged with small electric lights and piled underneath with presents, but maybe more important were the same ornaments decorating the tree, year after year, marking the passage of time — each December meant a new addition and so we had a visual reminder of each Christmas: look, that ragged clay wreath painted red with green dots, my sister made that one when we were just little; the red felt cardinal that clipped to a branch, that was from before even we were born.

Our parents each got some of the old ornaments when they divorced — how do you separate something like a pile of balls and tinsel and glass icicles and handmade clay faces and the thin brass angels, one sleeping and one praying, each personalized with a child’s name and the day and year of her birth? Do you sit together and open the boxes and weigh the memories inside each one? How did they each carry half of that tradition with all their other cardboard boxes and piles of blankets and furniture into their own separate houses for us?

Thanks for the ways you hold to your own traditions, for yourself, the ways that you have let new ritual twine with the past in a way that resonates for you now. Thanks, thanks, for your words.

filled with Thank You

stencil graffiti: image of a woman's face, with the words "creer c'est resister"

(to create is to resist!)

Today is going to be a good day.

Last night, a few people sat with me in the writing ourselves whole workshop space, and talked with me about how they can help me do the stuff involved in running this organization. I don’t know how much more I can say about that except how amazing and somewhat overwhelming it feels to have help — from many different sides.

Of course, having help means being accountable — means it’s not just me anymore. (It wasn’t ever just me, but I ignored that for a long time, feeling a lot more comfortable with a slightly martyred and extremely overwhelmed mindset.)

So this morning I am filled with Thank You.

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Tomorrow is Writing the Flood — we’ve got a great group coming together (are you joining us?) to spend this pre-Xmas Saturday writing, flowing, growing big onto the page. Bring that thing you’ve been promising yourself to work on — or bring an open & empty notebook, wait for the prompt, and go go go.

To create is to resist — that’s what Miss.Tic says.

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A prompt for today: December can be a time of nostalgia for me, and when I get all nostalgic, it’s a good idea for me to write (otherwise I wallow, which is rarely pretty on me).

Today I’ll invite you to think of a favorite song you had when you were younger — at any time before now. Start by telling us about the song, if you want, or how old you were when it was your favorite, or where you lived, or who your friends were then, or anything else that arises as you start to write — give yourself 15 minutes (more if you want) and follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

We used this as an introductory exercise at the beginning of the most recent Write Whole workshop — a great way to meet one another’s writing voices. Here’s my response to our short write:

So the first song — there are two songs that spring up and both have different, no, the same bedroom associated with them and yet they feel different, rearranged, the songs popular in different years and so there we were, me and me, at different ages in the same room — first unicorns then a fade to lack later–

I had the 45 for “What About Me?” (the whiniest song ever but still my chest opens when I think about the lyric: “And now I’m standing on the corner/all the world’s gone home –” I could keep going, still have it all in some corner of my head), could almost start crying, 10 years old and mom’s working and dating and we’re alone in this brownstone apartment and I’ve got the record on my small plastic player and I wonder why don’t mom and dad ask what we want, what about us in this divorce settlement of back and forth from one town to another–

Then Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, a song that made me so profoundly uncomfortable and I didn’t understand how they could play it on the radio legally and still I turn the channel when it comes one because it reminds me of that time — 11 years old at at a new school, learning finally that being a girl meant sexual harassment, meant having something sexual you had to heal from. (The tall lanky boy in brown boots and jeans who slunk up behind me in the cafeteria line and whispered what those things were, that was just part of the lesson.)

Thanks for your rememberings, for what you offer that others want to help you bring into the world, for your words. Always.

unrescued & saving ourselves over and over again

graffiti on concrete: red-pink heart with a black streak down the center --(Just a little explicit language of sexual abuse in here: so you know it. Be easy with you. xox, Jen)

It would seem I’m having some trouble getting back into my regular blogging routine, after the road-trip break. If I were a smart blogger, I would have brought my camera with me on the trip, so that I could create posts out of photos — but with no iphone and a lightly-packed (at least for me) self, there was no camera.

I’m in a nostalgic mode — about a month ago, my ex-wife sent me a box that she’d salvaged from the storage shed we filled when we moved out to CA in 03. On Sunday, I spent the morning in my newly-designated creative space in the little back cottage behind our house, going through cards and letters and papers from up to 20 years ago. Among all the college papers and postcards from friends on their semesters away in foreign countries were: transcripts from the trial (after my mother’s husband was arrested for sexual abuse and incest); letters from my mom, both before and after the trial (and how different they are); handwritten letters from two very close friends when they were away in the Army (xox, you two); a couple old photographs; even a letter from my sister from before the ‘break.’ (How to find the language to talk about the experience of befores and afters — I often just use those words themselves, capitalized and fairy-taled: the land of Before and the land of After: doesn’t the terrain change that much? Of course, it’s not a hard and fast boundary between those two places, and going through some of the papers I’d saved, I found an email I’d sent to my sister during the DMZ time, after we’d broken contact, after I’d confronted my mom about what her husband had done, and she was still living with him. I forget about that part, about that terrain — a lot, I forget about that terrain.)

There was a copy of The SAY Book, too, the workbook that my mother and stepfather wrote, exactly at the same time that my stepfather was raping us, to help kids who were had been sexually abused. They were working with kids at Boys’ Town, developing a method, a series of workshops — they were supposed to be helping. This copy of the book has my notes in it, from much later, when I went through and talked back to him — how could he write these things just as he was doing them to us?

And then to meet, again, all the letters and cards, voices from friends, from partners and their parents, from my Mom and Dad (written After), from aunts: all reaching out. All saying, I’m here. All saying, We want you with us, we believe (in) you, we love you, we want to help.

I didn’t let them help. I didn’t let you help, not then, and I’m sorry. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that, these 15 and 20 years later: how to lean, how to say, Yes, I’m not ok. Yes, I need you. Please, I need help.

So, nostalgia: tonight there’s a dance party in the east bay that maybe I’ll catch, after hanging out for awhile with a good friend — if I make it to the dance, there will be early 90s music to dance to, to lose myself in, to be that girl then again and this girl right now, this (yes, fine) this woman, moving, in her (my) body, unrescued, here, now, plain, saved, saving her(my)self over and over again.

And so, right now, I’m thinking a lot about releasing — letting go. Unclutching. I’m moving through my home and letting go of books, clothes, stuff that I don’t use or need anymore. At the same time, I couldn’t be more grateful for my pack-rat tendencies after going through that box. Is this another practice in balance (goddamnit)? After the arrest, my mom wasn’t legally allowed to contact me or my sister for about six months or something. She had to sell the house during that time; she didn’t know what to do with our things up in the attic — most of it, she got rid of. All the papers and things I’d saved from jr high and high school: gone. I save things so that I can keep my memory. And that’s why I wrote, too, for years: so there would be an external(ized) memory. What to hold on to? What to release? What to take back in?

Thinking about all this, a prompt for today:

Take 10 or 15 minutes, and begin with the phrase, When no one was looking, he/she/ze let go of–

Just notice what comes up when you read the phrase, and begin there — follow your writing wherever it seems to want to go. If you get stuck, begin again with the prompt — and change it any way you want (you let go of; or she didn’t let go of…)

I don’t have a write for this one yet; I’ll be doing it along with you.

Thank you: for what you hold and have carried, and for what you let yourself put down, too. And for your words (always).