Tag Archives: radical self care!

NaBloPoMo #15: I get clean by writing it

Today’s post comes from the Fearless Words writing group — our prompt came from the group itself: how do we get clean?

How do you get clean? You know — inside? How do you begin to release that sense that you are dirty, soiled, smeared with someone else’s stain?

We took about 8 minutes — and this is what came for me (with only small edits):

I get clean by writing it. I take the stories out of my body and let the page hold them, too. And I get clean by crying. So many buckets and buckets of ears, a sea full. a world full. I cry because crying is what brings the body back to itself. Cry and dance and sweat and move the damp through the body’s pores and the toxins are flooded out. They say that every seven years, every one of the body’s cells has replaced itself. One day I realized that this means that he has never touched the skin I’m in now. I have sloughed and shed the places he put his body against or into mine — I have sloughed him. I get clean by getting messy, by telling the truth, surrounding myself with a love that never thought me dirty in the first place.

sometimes self-care means deep self-parenting

Good morning, good morning. It’s later than I’d like it to be, almost 6am. I couldn’t pull my body out of bed when the alarm went off at 4:30 — even though I know how good the whole rest of my day is when I’ve had two hours awake and writing before anyone else in the house is up. That’s ok — just keep going now.

How are you being easy with yourself where you are this morning?

I have been thinking a lot recently about self care, as you know, and how easy it’s become to give myself permission to be the kid I didn’t get to be. I am thinking about giving myself permission to feel pain, feel anxiety, feel fear, and still move forward anyway. How much space I’ve made inside for the 12, 13, 14, 15 year old I was who was so afraid of doing the wrong thing and getting in trouble and having to deal with my stepfather’s wrath that now a lot of my life is structured around managing her anxiety. How do we teach ourselves the skills of being adult when we were psychically mangled as children, when we developed psychic structures and skill-sets that kept us safe once and now only serve to keep us small and contained? And how long will I be asking myself these questions? Do we ever actually grow up? Or is part of being grown up the asking — the recognition that I am acting in ways that have been shaped by my child self and I don’t want to force/let that kid be the one in charge anymore — I want to let her be a kid, one who gets parented well.

Last week I got to be alone with my nephew for a couple of hours while his parents, my sister and brother-on-law, went out for a date. My sister got to take a long shower and fix her hair for the first time in forever and put on her makeup and was so ready just to be herself again. My sweetheart and I had the pleasure of hanging out with a sleepy 7-month-old who doesn’t like to go to sleep Holding him, I remembered what it was like when I was a teenager allowed to babysit — that was the only job I had outside of the home when I was young, before I went to college. I remembered how honored I felt whenever a baby was comfortable in my arms, would relax enough to put her head on my shoulders, not to mention falling asleep on my body.

I can remember one babysitting gig we had where my sister and I went together to the house across the street from our stepfather’s and we took care of a handful of neighbor kids. The had a new baby, who wouldn’t have been much older than my nephew is now, and I distinctly remember sitting in a rocking chair with him while my sister took care of the other kids in another room. I had to get him to sleep, and I was armed with a bottle and nothing else — he was armed with his determination not to go to sleep. I rocked and held him for what seemed like hours while he cried and fussed. I whispered to him, It’s ok. It’s ok. You won’t miss anything good. It’ll all be here for you tomorrow. You can go to sleep now. We rocked and rocked, and finally he fell asleep on me, and it was all I could do to get up from that rocking chair and put him in his crib. Given the message I got at home — that I was selfish and untrustworthy, that there was something bad in me — having an infant fall asleep on my chest, trusting my hands and shoulders with the weight of his sleeping body, was a kind of innoculant to that messaging: something in me was still safe and kind, even if my parents couldn’t see it anymore.

My nephew cried and cried he got sleepy. My sweetheart and I heated up bottles for him and tried feeding him in his crib so that he could fall asleep there, but he wasn’t having it, so I took him back out into the living room and fed him on the couch. I watched the little face, a beautiful combination of my sister’s and her husband’s, turn wet with frustration. His eyelashes glinted with tears. He ate all he wanted, and then wouldn’t be soothed by a bottle or a binky. He’s stubborn — like his parents — and insistent. So we just rocked and bounced. I understood that nothing was wrong — his diaper was changed, he’d been fed, he wasn’t hurting or sick — this is just his way at bedtime. I wanted to be something steady for him to weep against while he learned to put himself to sleep. One more place, one more adult human who can teach him something about managing his anxiety and doing the difficult thing anyway. In his case, the difficult thing is going to sleep.

Who knows why he’s weeping, what all arises in his tiny new body when fatigue hits him. Don’t you  sometimes still get weepy when you’re over-tired and can’t get to sleep? He’s still learning how to manage all of that — and be a human breathing air at the same time.

I held him and cradled his back and head and whispered  into his ear, not to quiet him, but just to comfort him. He doesn’t quiet to shhhh any more than my puppy does. He would settle down, letting his head drop against my shoulder, and then snap back to attention, as though he’d thought. Wait, what happened? What’d I miss? Where was I? Oh yeah — and he’d start to cry again. My sweetheart said, I can take him if you want. She’s a mama who spent many nights walking the floor with her own son when he was young, so I knew she’d have some good tricks up her sleeve, but I am stubborn, too, and I didn’t want to hand his little body over. Selfish, sure. But selfish isn’t always terrible. She smiled at me when I didn’t even bat an eye at her offer. Eventually his cries got shallower, thinner, quieter. He got heavier in my arms, and started hiccuping. And then he let his head fall to my shoulder and it stayed there. I looked in a nearby mirror and saw that his eyes were open, so I just keep going — hand spread out across his back, rubbing slowly, bouncing a little, and whispering shhhh, that sound that reminds him of the whisper of his mama’s knowing when he was inside her. A few minutes later he was asleep. I didn’t even try to put him into his crib, which I know is a difficult transition even for his parents to accomplish these days. Instead I went over to the couch and sat down, then stretched out so that he was lying flat on my chest, and we listened to Cesaria Evora on Pandora, while he slept.

How do we learn to be the same sort of steady, unyielding, kind presence for the selves in us that are still terrified, still afraid of the dark, still scared to take new leaps?

There was a morning earlier this fall when my sweetheart’s boy had reason not to want to do something at school because of an interaction with a teacher the previous day, and I got to watch my sweetheart stand up into his fury and fear, the way he shouted at her, You don’t know what  it’s like, everything is easy for you! and threw a fantastic tantrum, and still she was a steady, maintaining presence, getting him ready for school, reminding him that she would be with him, but insisting that he go and do this thing even though he was scared. And inside all she wanted to do was let him have his way; she wanted his smile and his comfort. But she knew that wouldn’t help him develop the skills he’d need as an adult — not showing up for him the way she did wouldn’t have been good parenting. I was in awe of her steadiness, her unwillingness to meet his rage with frustration, how she was kind and gentle with him and helped him walk to the place he needed to get. He was unhappy all the way to school, but when they got there, she talked with his teacher, who helped clear up a misunderstanding from the day before, and he got to face his fear and walk through it.

I am not always such a good parent to the parts in me that still need to learn how to be grown up. I tend to let those parts sit on the couch and watch tv instead of insisting that we do the thing that we don’t want to do — make the difficult phone call, get some exercise, sit down and write instead of procrastinating. The small self in me doesn’t even have to throw a tantrum; she just gets tense and anxious and says, No, I don’t want to do it, and the only slightly older self in me, the one who got free at 21, says, You know what, small one? You don’t have to. Let’s just relax today. The tension goes away. We all watch tv and eat popcorn and peanut butter cups for lunch and then we get to the end of the day not having taken care of any business and feeling generally shitty about ourselves.

Sometimes, it’s true, a daylong movie marathon and terrible eating are just what the doctor ordered. I’m not removing those from my self-care toolbox. But I tend to reach for those tried-and-true anxiety-ameliorating practices a little too often, foregoing the necessary work to build up other skills– like holding hands with my fear while I risk submitting my work to a new publisher, or calling on someone who could help me promote the workshops, or following up with folks who owe me money for work I’ve done with them.

The adult me doesn’t have anyone standing in my corner telling me that it’s time to go do the difficult thing; it’s my job as an adult to do that for myself. But it’s also my job to be gentle and generous with the inside selves that were terrorized through adolescence and do deserve some ease.

The transition I’m facing a the moment is shifting the child out of the role of parent/adult — she who didn’t have anyone to take care of her as a young person had to protect herself as best as possible, and that meant shutting down anxiety as soon as it emerged however she could. It also meant that she felt overwhelmed all the time: how could she ever actually manage to be all that was demanded of her — obedient child, obedient sex object, successful and achieving student, and accomplished computer programmer — while carrying on the pretense, in the world and at home, that everything was normal. Of course she’s overwhelmed all the time now that she’s expected to be an actual adult. Of course she just wants to check out. And I’ve let her — us — do a lot of checking out.

(I’m putting the work into practice right now — while finishing this post, my web browser logged me out of wordpress, and I lost about a half-an-hour’s worth of work. My small self began, understandably, to pout and complain — God! Just forget it! Can’t we quit doing this dumb writing and go eat breakfast? – and so I pouted for a few minutes, complained to my sweetheart (who responded, quite satisfyingly, in kind, about how much the whole situation sucks and is the worst ever), and then came back up to my desk and sat down and started rewriting.)

Maybe nothing has to be shut down, no parts of ourselves have to be ignored or shamed like they were when we were being abused. Instead, we can let each part be itself — the 12 year old kid can be exactly her perfect 12 year old self, and does not have to have the responsibilities of an adult, and she can trust that the adult will take care of the tasks needed to accomplish our goals and pay our bills and put food on the table, without putting our lives at risk. I mean to say that the young and still-understandably-scared selves can come to gently learn that feeling fear, feeling anxious, doesn’t have to mean that we’re about to be harmed.

What I’m starting to confront is that “be easy with myself” doesn’t always mean just walk away from anything hard and crawl into a cave. Sometimes it has to mean doing this other work of self-parenting: sitting with the tantruming and fearful child inside, breathing with her panic and loss, while not giving in to her demand that we read books and eat cereal all day, every day, in order to avoid feeling any anxiety. I’ve never been a fan of the language of parenting the inner child — it creeped me out, I think because it hits so close to home. But today I am meeting this language differently, thinking about how to take small, straightforward and sometimes scary steps into a more healed life — one in which the adult gets to be the adult, and the kid gets to be the kid.

Thank you for all the ways you are being easy with yourself today. Thank you for your deep kindness with yourself and others, and, of course, thank you for your good words.

 

what survivors are hungry for

(Hummingbirds are luminous and ravenous survivors — they eat 1-3 times their body weight daily, which means they must have intimate connection with hundreds of flowers each and every day. Go ahead, lovelies.)

Tonight at Lit Crawl, Writing Ourselves Whole writers will share their take on the fierce hunger of sexual trauma survivors.

(You can join us: 6pm at the Women’s Building, Room B, in San Francisco!)

Tonight, our brilliant writers — Manish Vaidya, Eanlai Cronin, Renee Garcia, Blyth Barnow, and Seeley Quest — will articulate some of what it looks like when survivors tangle with hunger: what it’s like to feel it, what it’s like not to feel it, not to allow ourselves to feel it, to think we don’t deserve it — and to finally allow ourselves consider the possibility that we do.

I am thinking this morning about how ferociously hungry are the survivor writers I’ve worked with over the last ten-plus years — writers who desperately long for something different: for an end to rape and rape culture, for an end to all forms of oppression and violence that dehumanize some in order to give others satiation and power — yes, of course, this. But then there are the individual hungers:  for connection, understanding, knowing, recognition; folks are hungry to be seen. We’re hungry for work that satisfies and challenges us, hungry to be nourished — physically and psychically, and to feel worthy of nourishment. We are hungry for intimacy, hungry for a touch that doesn’t take anything from us but instead meets and feeds us. We are hungry for change, for knowledge, for beauty, for the pen or the brush or the song or the dance, for the dark and for the light. We are hungry and struggle to feel ourselves worthy of feeding. We have been starved and often we have starved ourselves.

Radical self care means allowing ourselves to experience what we are hungry for — or, even before that, to be aware of our appetites, and to know that having an appetite isn’t what caused our violation. This is slow learning and can take years. Simply having human and animal appetites — wanting, hungering — isn’t what caused someone to harm us. They may have told us that it did, that their actions were our fault, that we were also partly to blame, because, look, we said we wanted — something. We wanted to see the puppy or taste the candy. We wanted to be touched or held, in ways that were loving or safe. We wanted to feel special and important. Sometimes our bodies wanted the sexual touch, which confused us, because we didn’t want it from this person, in this way. We wanted the toy or the special treat that we were promised, or we wanted to be able to keep safe the people or pets who were threatened. Our desires were manipulated, used against us, and so we tried to keep ourselves from wanting. If we didn’t want anything, no one could manipulate us like that again. We slid our big and small hungers into drawers and locked them up inside ourselves. We said, What, me? No, I don’t need anything. I’m fine. What do you want?

What do you want?

Our hungers don’t go away. They gnaw on the insides of those drawers, they chew through the locks and bars, they are insatiable, they do not abandon us. I am not talking about addictions here, but what the addictions are trying to keep us from feeling, to help us run from, help us ignore. We might spend years running as fast as we can to get away from the desires that have been with us all our lives: the desire to create, the desire to connect, the desire to feel, the desire to be witnessed, nourished, appreciated, make a difference, matter.

When we stop running, the hunger that catches up with us can be overwhelming. I have used lots of different things to drown it out — wine, food, television, relationship drama, too much work. All of these at the same time, some weeks. All of this to keep from having to hear that quiet and persistent voice in me that says, I am hungry to be loved for exactly who I am. I am hungry to write books that some people will read and love. I am hungry for a solid sense of home. I am hungry for playful and understanding friendships. I am hungry for family that feels safe. I am hungry to experience my body’s full and free sexual and erotic capacity — in fact, to know the full capacity of my body’s strength and speed and wisdom overall. I am hungry for a world that doesn’t organize every organism and object into a hierarchy of use to white supremacist capitalism, hungry for a world in which children aren’t treated like items on a menu, hungry for a society in which all people’s innate creative genius is recognized, valued, and nourished. I starve or overfeed myself to avoid feeling the rage and sorrow and hope that accompanies these longings, but they don’t go away.

During the first months I was offering erotic writing groups, I came to understand right away that they were about more than just sex for the writers — they were about finding and creating safe space in which to hunger, in which to openly long, a space in which that longing wouldn’t be used against us in any way, in which, in fact, we would be celebrated for that desire. Toward the end of those early groups, writers came to be aware of not simply the specificities of their erotic desires (as though that’s ever simple!), but also of desire to reconnect with their music, with their art, to find work that truly fed them. We wanted the whole of our sex back, yes, and we wanted so much more than that, too.

It is in our nature to hunger. When we try to shut those primal urges down, we implode. This starvation is a way of slowly killing ourselves. It is a way of continuing to do our violators’ work for them. Eventually, little by little, we can begin to put down that particular labor, beating up and shaming the small self within that has mouth open and hands out. We can begin to listen to that self, treat it (us, him, hir, her, them) with kindness and generosity, as we ought always to have been listened to ourselves. We can remember that that small self deserved those desires, just as we do — and did not deserve to be shamed or harmed for wanting, just as we do not. We can begin to feel what we have always been hungry for, and then, as we choose, start to feed ourselves — even start allowing ourselves to be fed.

Here’s to your gorgeous and tender hungers. Thank you for all the ways that you are allowing yourself to feel, to appreciate, and to feed your good, good self.

the difficult and beautiful struggle around self care

I’d like to say my usual good morning, good morning, but it’s taken me all day to get to this post. Refinding my way into my writing after a long break can go like this. Bear with me, ok?

As the light shifts and we find ourselves fully into autumn (whether it feels like it or not where you are), I hope this finds you brimming with words and readying to write. I certainly know I am.

This month’s newsletter comes to you with 4-leaf clovers and migrating monarchs – see below!) out of the midwest. I found the gift up there the day before I was to give a presentation at the Power of Words conference about self-care for transformative language artists (that is, anyone who uses language in a healing or transformative way: writers, poets, workshop facilitators, storytellers, songwriters, therapists, teachers, and so on). I needed a little good luck…I had arrived at the conference (at Lake Doniphan, just outside of Kansas City) quite depleted after a month full of family, workshops, and preparations to finally complete our new book, Sex Still Spoken here: the Erotic Reading Circle Anthology. The further I got into the month, the more self-care practices dropped away: I stopped running, ate poorly, spent no time in the garden, and even told myself that I didn’t have time or energy to write in the mornings. Despite the fact that that last is always a flashing neon red flag, announcing loudly that I need to make some changes (I am not much fun to be around when I’m not writing regularly), still I kept going, kept doing more, kept depleting myself further. I began to feel like the bottom of a used cookpot — burnt and scoured, and still I kept on scraping at the remnants, expecting to be able to nourish myself and others on charred tailings rather than taking the time to step back, slow down, and replenish.

Do you have months like this? Years like this, maybe?

Now here I was at a conference of my transformative language arts peers, and I barely had any energy to connect with the beautiful, brilliant folks around me. How could I present a talk/workshop about self-care when I had been doing such a poor job of taking care of myself?

monarch butterflies migrating through a Nebraska gardenAfter taking some time to get quiet with the natural world (thank you, monarchs and cicadas), I walked into my workshop with my whole self — I told the gathered participants exactly where I was coming from, and honored how very difficult it can be to take care of ourselves, even when we are working to help others take care of themselves. I described my own experiences of burnout and how I sometimes had to get clear to rock bottom before I believed I deserved to take care of this instrument that is myself. I described how grateful I felt in 2008 when I discovered Laura van Dernoot Lipsky’s Trauma Stewardship book and program — and how called out I was by her assertion that we who called ourselves trauma stewards could not possibly do ethical (not to mention sustainable!) work with others if we were not also taking care of ourselves. That one hit home in a big way for me, and yet I am still struggling, six years later, to believe that I am worth taking care of.

We are so many of us trained, early and often, to take care of everyone else before we take care of ourselves. Those lessons are repeated continuously: There is so much need, so much trauma, so many around us who need help. Who do we think we are to take time out of our social change efforts to “replenish the well” (as Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way)? I don’t know about you, but when I’m not taking care of myself, I get into this mindset that says, “If I just do these last few things for them, then I’ll be able to take some time for me.” The trouble is, there’s no end to what I (tell myself I) need to do for other people. There’s no way to finish that to-do list, and I drive myself into the ground trying to “get it all done.”

There’s no such thing as getting it all done — especially not when we’re talking about trauma and its aftermath.

I have to change the paradigm, and put self-care right up at the top of every day’s tasks. This is difficult work, especially when I’ve already slipped back into my codependent-hero costume (complete with Wonder Woman cape, thank you): I am putting everyone else first! Look at how great I am! Never mind that after not very long I’m going to disappear under a rock and quit responding to email messages and phone calls because I’m so overwhelmed — the pendulum swings over to the selfish-shame side of things.

Have you been on this ride? The Wonder Woman side feels great for a little while, but the crash is kind of a drag.

In A Feminist Ethic of Risk, Sharon Welch reminds her readers that we can’t approach social change work with the sort of individualist mindset that many of us (especially white middle class Americans) are trained into — not only must we work in community and collaboration, we must prepare ourselves for small victories and do our work in such a way that we are building a scaffolding for those who will come after us — who will pick up our work after we have gone. If we expect to get it all done today (To do list: buy dish detergent, get flea medicine for cat, take out trash, end rape culture) even in our lifetimes, we are sure to burn out. We have to slow down, breathe deep, work steady and consistently, and remember that we are not alone in our struggles.

I forget this a lot. As a survivor who was, like so many, intensely isolated — and also as an introvert who needs time to myself to process and replenish — I tend to do a lot of my work alone. I live in a community that is both wildly creative and also frantically busy and consistently overwhelmed; we are all trying to figure out how to do our art, create change in collaboration with others, and also pay our rent. I, like so many cultural workers in the Bay Area, find myself taking on too much, trying to Do It All, before depleting my resources and needing to retreat into a bit of quiet until I feel a tiny trickle of water start to flow into the parched desert of my creative soul. Then I dive back into work again full bore, expecting that trickle to do the work of the sea. Working from a place of overwhelm is like having blinders on — all I can see is the road ahead. I forget why I’m doing what I’m doing. I forget why I loved this work. I stop being able to see the impact of my efforts, and begin to despair – why am I working so hard when nothing ever seems to change? What good is this work, anyway? Am I really making any sort of difference?

I showed up at the conference deeply depleted. Thankfully, The Power of Words conference is a space that values authentic presence, and I was able to show up exactly as I was. I talked a little bit about the need for transformative language arts workers to take care of our good and necessary selves, and then we broke into small groups and folks wrote together (this was our prompt) and held one another’s words. It was a gorgeous group of writers, and I found myself — even from the edge of despair on which I was teetering — grateful all over again for what happens when folks write openly and honestly, then share their words with each other and allow themselves to be received with kindness and generosity.

Then I went to Arby’s and got potato cakes by way of celebration — hey, I was home, and only wanted to eat the things my 10 year old self would have wanted to eat.

Since getting back from the conference, I helped launch a book into the world and celebrated its authors, have two new survivors groups beginning, and am preparing for Writing Ourselves Whole’s inaugural reading at San Francisco’s Lit Crawl.  I am also slowing down, not making plans, leaving hours open for daydreaming and reading. The more space I have, the more the words begin to return — and the more able I feel to sit down with them and let them flow onto the page.

Self-care is a difficult practice for any of us, and trauma survivors have our own challenges. I have to remind myself over and over again of Audre Lorde’s words: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

We deserve to preserve ourselves. We deserve to be in our chosen work for the long haul. We deserve to be well inside our skins. I say it to you in order to remind myself as much as to remind you. Thank you for all the ways you are tender with your psyche, body, and soul. Thank you for your spaciousness with others when they are needing to retreat in order to take care of themselves. And, as ever, thank you for your words.

I don’t have to earn this life

Good morning, good morning, writers. Have you already pushed into your words this morning? Did you make some time in these precious wee hours for the voice of weirdness and magic to find its way to you?

I’m sorry to have been absent from this space for so long — the last weeks have been overly filled with work that leaves me without time for any morning writing that’s not dashed off in the notebook. There’s been this beautiful book we are getting ready to send off to the printers and all of the necessary, last-minute edits of stories, formatting and reformatting, and gathering the various bits and pieces together that make a collection like this one come together — the other day I worked through the night on “final” copyedits (though it seems like copyediting is never actually finished), awake until 4am, which is when I usually would prefer to rise! There’ve been many writing groups, including two at Pacific School of Religion engaging the idea of writing as a spiritual practice for the new (and returning) seminarians there. Our online Write Whole writing group is coming to a close, and I’ve been writing up responses to last-minute writes and chatting with participants one-on-one. I worked on a book review, began working on a new editing project, and I even (gasp!) spent some time with friends and family (though that’s really more of a testament to my sweetheart’s scheduling abilities; left to my own devices, this is a time when I’d put my head down and see almost no one — thank goodness she helps keep me sane.)

All this means I’m spending very little time online. When I have a little downtime, I spend it outside in the garden, or playing with the pup, or reading a book in a quiet corner. I’m doing some writing, sure, in workshops and in the notebook

Life has been fully outside my ideal routine during this time: little downtime, little reflective space, and even less time alone to replenish the creative well. I keep plugging forward because I know the crunch is finite — it feels rather like finals back at school: you do what you have to do, you work hard, you have minor or major meltdowns and then you get back to work, you push through it and then when it’s all done you go home for the break and succumb to some small virus and sleep for three days and nourish yourself with ramen noodles and daytime talk shows.

Right now, I can’t do the usual work required of a small businessperson/solopreneur — I can’t do a lot of promo for the upcoming fall workshops, and am not able to return calls or connect with folks about possible new business. I get frustrated and overwhelmed and then I remember that it is what it is: this one body has a finite amount of resources and energy, and right now we’re expending all of them just moving through the projects already on our plate. This is hard remembering for me to do: it takes practice. I am forever more easily able to listen to the voice in my head that tells me I am not doing enough, I am lazy and a slacker, I will never amount to anything worthwhile. Perhaps you have some similar sort of voice in your head, too. I’m sorry, if that’s the case. This is an ongoing struggle for most people, and maybe a bit moreso for those of us who are survivors of family violence, who heard early and often how selfish and hateful we were for wanting agency and bodily integrity and to be the determiners of our own futures (not to mention love and security and safety — my goodness).

Change is in the works: I am beginning to see the glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel. I take breaks and turn off the news. This morning I rose early so that I could make maple-bacon scones for a certain new 6th grader, and will head to the dog park with the pup after I drop that same particular someone off at school for the day. Then I’ll head down south to visit with another small boy (this one just about to hit his six month mark!) and a sister and a mother, and we will spend the day doing no “work” but the practice of real love and being, which I have to keep reminding myself is a worthwhile way to “spend” my time. I don’t have to work all the time in order to deserve the air I breathe. I don’t have to earn this life. I can be in it, too.

Big love and gratitude today, for you and your words and all the ways of your being-ness.

Jen’s ten rules for writers (for today)

Sometimes things conspire to keep the body from pulling itself out of bed at 4:50am. Sometimes the dog has been awake at irregular intervals all night, snapping off sharp, surprising barks at the neighbors who had the audacity to have a gathering on their summer-vacation Monday night and into Tuesday morning. Sometimes she’s up at 1:48am, shaking and scratching and agitating so that her collar rings like poorly-tuned chimes, needing to go outside. Sometimes the body stands at the back door, falling back asleep while upright, waiting for the dog to finish exploring the night yard and ask to be let back in. Sometimes the work went late into the night and rest didn’t come early enough. Sometimes the leg spasms, dancing all by itself, and the rest of the body doesn’t want to stretch it — that road leads directly to charlie horse.

So sleep, such as it is, blows right through the 4:50 alarm, through the many snoozes, and continues on until almost 7. Sometimes the sweetheart’s arms are just too sweet to slip away from, and so it’s a whole lot better to cuddle back in under the covers after every snooze. And those precious early morning writing hours are spent in dreams. But the dreams will make their way into some character’s head, someday. That’s the hope.

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Today is a self-care day: body work, therapy, CoDA — not in that order. There’s much work to do — we have a beautiful group gathered for our summer online write whole session, and folks have already begun to share strong and gorgeous work there; our fundraising campaign for Sex Still Spoken Here (the Erotic Reading Circle anthology) is in the homestretch and needs a lot of attention in order to make our $5000 goal; Dive Deep‘s SummerFall 2014 Cohort is underway and manuscripts are arriving for response; Write Whole‘s in-person session begins next week, and I’ve got to prepare our syllabus and get the word out to any last-minute registrants — I’ve also got a syllabus to prepare for a master class for the National Poetry Slam at the beginning of next month and start getting the word out to local colleges about our 2014-2015 workshop offerings… so today’s practice will be to relax during the self-care time, and trust that the work will get done as it needs to get done. Whew.

~~ ~~ ~~

Last Thursday, In the first meeting of our Dive Deep SummerFall cohort, I asked us to write (in 10 minutes) our 10 rules for writers (I got the idea from Advice to Writers, which shares various writers’ lists of 10 rules now and again…). We got some great lists, and some interesting overlap among many of our lists. What would get included on your list of 10 “rules” for writers? What would you leave off your list of “rules”?

Here’s what my list looked like:

1) Start now.

2) Open a notebook. Get a fast-moving pen. Sit down at a corner table in a bustling cafe, next to a window, wearing headphones connected to a tape player blaring music you’ve listened to often enough that the sound simply permeates your brain, creating a barrier between the loud voices around you, the even louder and more hostile voices within you, and the words you can barely even allow yourself to know you want to write. Put the pen to the page. Write one word, then another, as fast as you can, faster than the eyes of your inner editors and censors can read. Keep going for 20 minutes, take a breath, then keep going for another 20 years.

3) Understand that anyone’s rules for writing are useless to you.

4) Move your body in ways that feel excellent to you and make you sweat at least as often as, and for as long as, you write.

5) Be around animals — they being you into the present moment better than anything else.

6) Read books you love. Read books you don’t love. Read in and out of the genre you want to write.

7) Write what you love — not what you think you ought to write. Forgive yourself for not always loving what you “ought” to write.

8) Remember that writing needs room to breathe — loafing, wandering, and lazing aimlessly are often deeply creative acts.

9) Take paid work that has nothing to do with writing, leaves you energy to write, and provides material for your writing.

10). Be easy with you. And keep going.

not just a piece of broken and damaged baggage

And what about this morning — I wake up from snooze-dreams in which I’m at a health food store where they’re playing loud German industrial music over the sound system. There’s a video playing on a tv mounted high up on the wall in one of the rooms (this is a health food store I’ve visited in other dreams, a part of my dream home, I guess), and there’s the lead singer, a high-glam, big-haired femme man that someone calls Headwig — I realize this is who the play was based on. He’s wearing yellow leather tight-fitting pants and jacket, with long, thin, dyed blonde hair. The video is shot from the base of the front of the stage, looking up at him, as though the camera person is in the audience, and so Headwig is enormously towering and imposing as he stalks around the stage between verses. I don’t remember what I was buying at the store, or why I was there, but now I have in my head the 90’s German industrial song Du Hast, which I think I’ll have to listen to later.

There are so many thing I think I ought to write about here during the days — but I don’t make notes about any of them, so when I sit down with my eyes still bleary and my body aching and tired, my head is empty — what am I going to do with this time now that I’ve managed to drag my body out of bed? What I want is for this to be time when I don’t have to rush through my writing, when I can write slowly and without interruption. (Also, I am tired of writing the word ‘writing’ — I don’t want to be so self-conscious about my process anymore. I don’t want to tell you about what I want to be writing, how how I want to be writing, la la la. Let’s just be in the work instead.)

Yesterday I managed to actually make a call to a doctor’s office about what’s going on with my body — the constant tenseness in my piriformis muscle (apparently leftover from the spasm that laid me low for three months two years ago) has now caused the whole right side of my body to tense up and has started impacting my knee. My knee is recovering from whatever happened to make it pop when I was running earlier this week, but still I’m not exercising, and I feel like a failure — here I just finished this book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, which left me motivated to dedicate myself more fully to both running/exercise and my writing practice, and now I feel like I’ve been thwarted in that space of inspiration. I’ve spent most of the last couple of days feeling nauseous because of the tenseness in my shoulder and glute and knee; my right calf spasms fairly constantly (it’s like I’ve got a fluttering bird inside my leg) when I’m sitting still, and then aches as though I’ve had a charlie horse. And yet I feel wholly stymied when I go to call someone to ask for help. What am I supposed to say?

In this case, I was calling a sports medicine department at a prominent hospital. I spent ten minutes or so looking at my phone after I entered in the number. Sports medicine? I’m not a sports person — how do I talk to these people? What I imagined is that my call would be answered by some rushed secretary who didn’t have time for me to be blubbering and stammering on, not knowing what I needed — I wanted to get clear about what I was going to say before I called. Well, my body hurts, and I need help. Isn’t that the base of things? I shamed myself for not knowing what to say — what kind of grown woman can’t call the doctor and articulate why she’s calling? And then I started spinning, on down this rabbit hole, embarrassed that I felt so frozen, in pain and in need of some help, desperately  wanting someone to be able to tell me what’s really going on with my body. Shouldn’t I know how to take care of myself by now?

For most people, I imagine in these moments, this would be a straightforward and easy task — you call, you say what’s wrong, you ask your questions, etc etc. But I was already crying by the time I dialed the number. I guess I’ll just do my best, I said to myself. Why was this so hard? Certainly I felt like I’d failed, not taking care of myself, needing to ask for outside help in the first place. But then I felt ashamed for not knowing the language of the body. In calling a sports medicine place, I was suddenly entering into a realm of specialized knowledge where I didn’t know the jargon or lingo and I was going to be found out immediately as a dilettante and loser who doesn’t even know how to talk about her own bones and musculature. I have the idea that real athletes know how to talk about their bodies — they’ve had coaches and trainers, they have been indoctrinated into this world of the body, and the hurt body. Someone else would know what to do for themselves if they got hurt in this way.

(Yes, a voice inside me says, Jen, yes, they would know — they would know to call a doctor right when that spasm first hit them, instead of hobbling around for three months, then two years, trying to take care of it mostly on their own.)

Back when this first happened, I told myself I wanted to figure out what caused the spasm, psychologically — I figured it had something to do with  going out on my own (leaving my day job) to focus solely on my writing groups, and it also had something to do with my trauma history, because of where this muscle is located — it was my sciatic nerve that hurt so much, that made it difficult for me to walk. I thought if I cold just get to the root of things, my body would (magically) heal itself. This is how I was indoctrinated as a teenager: Every ailment is psychosomatic in origin. You don’t need a doctor — you need to get to the psychological root of the problem, and once you do that, everything will get better.

Somehow my sister didn’t internalize this message: she goes to the doctor. She manages to get help for her body when her body needs help. It’s amazing to me. I remember learning that she’d had the same dentist for 7 years or something, that she went regularly, during a period of time when I’d been without dental insurance and had to have emergency dental surgery to take care of a tooth I’d allowed to disintegrate in my mouth and had to take out a loan to get it done because the situation was now so expensive to deal with — how did she have it in her to take care of herself that way? Why were we so different here?

I am trying to channel her capacity now that I have to make another phone call to another doctor. What if I call the wrong kind of doctor? What I want is a kind of parent, who can listen to me talk about this ailment and who will be able to diagnose me (physically and mentally) on the spot — oh, it sounds like you need this. I would like to find a trauma aware doctor who knows about muscles and spasms and history locked up in skin who can tell me what I need to do now to take care of myself so that I can get back to moving the way I am just now learning to be comfortable with — I don’t want to have to be out of my body again. What I want is a doctor who is kind and understanding, who gets (intuitively!) why it might have been hard for me to call them, who congratulates me for even making the call: I know how hard and scary this must have been. Come on in and we’ll have some tea and you can tell me what’s been going on with your body and then together we can work to figure out what’s wrong and I can work with you to fix things up and get you moving again. Would that be so hard? Maybe if I didn’t need someone who’d also swipe my insurance card and take my paltry co-payment, sure. But we go with what we’ve got.

When I called the sports medicine center yesterday, the receptionist was in fact rushed — she interrupted me to ask if I’d been in to the clinic before, and then took what I’d begun to explain (back spasm — ok, you’re spasming…) and told me she could get me in to see someone that day. But it turned out that they were out of network for my Covered California insurance. After I hung up, I sat down outside in my little office (I mean there in the garden that I’m trying to nurture) and cried hard out of shame and embarrassment. Why is this so difficult for me? Why can’t I take care of myself better? I felt like a failed parent.

How do we learn, as adults, to advocate for the small selves we continue to carry within us? When do we stop being embarrassed for what we don’t know, what we didn’t learn, how we weren’t trained to self-advocate, how unfamiliar or even uncomfortable we are within our own skin , with the language of this body? No one working the phones at a clinic has time to listen to me hem and haw because I’m so astonished to be needing to call a sports medicine clinic in the first place — me, whose only sport for years was self-abuse and drinking, suddenly needs someone to tell me how to stretch right and take care of my body so that I can continue running? What? Also, I want to know the language that my body is speaking — what is she saying to me when my calf muscle is fluttering with little spasms, or when my knee pops like that (not a tear, my sweetheart tells me, but still something that was getting more and more tense that just released suddenly in a sharp way and there on Lakeshore I hopped up and didn’t run anymore — the joggers who passed by me in the immediate aftermath looking at me with worried eyes then glancing away quick, their blonde ponytails swinging behind them).

It is scary to need help and not know how to ask for it, to put myself in the hands of an authority figure knowing how they could mistreat or mishandle me. (I keep reading the missives from my dear friend just in the hospital who has had to learn self advocacy the very hard way after endless horrible encounters with medical professionals who just an her to sit nice and quiet and take her medicine, even when they are trying to give her medicine that would kill her, or when they want to mishandle her body or when they want to dismiss her worries.) I have plenty of reason to be nervous as I enter into the realm of the medical. The only physician I went to see as an adolescent was my stepfather’s doctor, who filled me with shots so they could understand what I was allergic to all of a sudden — no one tested me with his dander, to see if maybe I was allergic to incest. I had to figure that one out on my own.

So today I am thinking about self care, self parenting, and about when self care looks like something other than encouraging myself to rest or play — sometimes it looks like pushing myself to do something hard and scary like picking a doctor out of the blue and hoping that they don’t fuck me up. I wish that it didn’t have to get so bad before I took care of my body. This inner kid has to get pretty sore before the parent in me will look past her own discomfort and dis-ease and take the kid’s hand and say, ok, let’s go take care of this. And mostly that “taking care of” looks like something made up — let’s try out this yoga routine that we pulled from drawings we saw in a book once (was it Our Bodies, Ourselves?) and have never figured out even if were doing the positions right from anyone who actually knows anything about yoga. It’s like we still live in a cage, and the only ones who can help us are ourselves. I have a vision of the characters in Room, Emma Donoghue’s brilliant novel, who are held captive, mother and child, so if the child has anything wrong with him the mother has to do with what they have in that room — she has to play games with him to help him get better from ay injury or sickness — there’s no way to go out and get help. And in these cases, it’s usually the child who will be the one who has to break free — it’s the child inside, the one that’s hurting, that will be the one to actually push me to make some change, to take this step, to take care of this body that I’ve acted for so long like is just a piece of broken and damaged baggage I have to carry around with me from place to place, the thing that makes it possible for me to write but just barely, the thing that I value for its ability to keep going with no maintenance, no oil, barely enough fuel to keep it running (and bad fuel, too, low octane, high waste product). I’ve treated my body like a car I never have to get tuned up, and then I’m surprised when the care stops dead by the side of the road one day and just won’t go anymore — what’s the matter, car? I push the gas pedal, I put the clutch into first, but the gears just grind hard against each other (are there even gears in cars anymore?) and the wheels roll off and away in all four directions.

Turns out I can’t figure out everything all my myself from books; I need some expert guidance, someone who knows about cars to come up to me and out their hand on my shoulder and say, kindly and without judgement, Honey, you gotta add some oil once in awhile. Here’s how to do that — and here’s what happens when you don’t. This is what deep self-maintenance looks like, and this is part of what happens when you don’t pay attention to your body for a couple of decades. So today I’ll make another phone call, and take one more step toward being a better parent to this hurting self inside.

Now the song in my head has shifted. Be easy with you today, and I’ll try to do the same here.

 

they bite down hard and don’t let go easy

Good morning good morning. Outside my window right now it is still grey with morning clouds. I’ve got hot water with lemon and honey, and I am trying to remember how to breathe. I am trying to remember the point of this process. I am trying to remember how my limbs and lungs learned to function. I am trying to recalibrate after a deeply triggering experience and a week in the throes of — not flashback, exactly, but a deep and embodied re-memorying of what it was like to be a 22-year-old person trying to get away from a man who had brainwashed and abused her, and terrified for her life.

Last weekend, at the Survivorship conference, I had occasion to learn some new information about the man who sexually abused me, and in the aftermath, I have not been ok. I crashed. I have been sad and scared and triggered. I have been hopeless. (And yet, I want to say that the conference was, overall, a powerful and good experience for me, and I am so grateful to have been able to participate!)

Part of the crash was trigger, and part of the crash was a feeling of hopelessness, of sheer powerlessness to change any of the conditions that allow kids to continue to be harmed by the people who are supposed to care for and guide them. I don’t like to write here when I am in that place of hopelessness — I prefer to offer a sense of possibility and hope, even if it’s thin and fragile; I know how easy it can be to fall into despair, and I don’t want to be a part of that for anyone else. But this week, most of what I felt was despair: people do terrible things to children (and to other adults) and most of those who do will never be held accountable for their actions. Other adults will protect them. Our system of government will protect them. Even we who were abused will protect them — because we love them, because we forget, because we are afraid for our lives and the lives of others we love. This week it feels like violence and desecration are a part of the human constitution — how can we undo what people with the power  and money fight so violently and tenaciously to continue to have access to?

So this week I’ve had to go slow. I’ve been offline a lot, in the quiet, reading and thinking and remembering. My inclination during these triggered times is to hide deep in a hole, get as far away from everyone and everything as I can, which generally leaves me feeling lonely and isolated — and so, as I was able, I reached out, talked to beloveds, spent time around humans who I know are kind and generous and loving. I baked. I worked in the garden. I spent time cuddling a pup. Radical self care was hard work this week.

This is what I wrote on Monday, during our Write Whole group — the prompt I used at the beginning was a quote from Carson McCullers:

“All we can do is go around telling the truth.” I want that to be enough. Today I do not feel hopeful even though I feel that hope is meant to be my job, my vocation. Today I know that telling the truth can help an individual or damn her to confinement when she tells a story that people more powerful than her want squashed. We have to be inside out and sideways in our telling. This isn’t what I want to say. What I really want to say is that I am disheartened by humankind today. I know that people, that survivors, are resilient, that if we live through horror we usually are able to heal, if given the chance, and I also believe that in my lifetime, and for generations beyond my death, there will be no end to the destruction of children in the service of adult’s desires. I want to believe that there can be a change. I want to believe we can set aside our bloodthirst. I want to believe that we can be a different species— but children have been violated by adults since, it would seem, the beginning of time. What makes me think we could end such an entrenched practice and entitlement with just a few years’ outcry and naming?

I hear that President Obama wants to end rape on college campuses — how can that not be commendable? He forms a task force, and he names the issues in his speeches, and he encourages more study and research on the problem. Meanwhile, girls are still being assaulted at parties and in dorms by “friends” and classmates. Is it because boys need to be educated? Is it because we truly believe that the boys involved believe that their behavior isn’t wrong? How could we possibly believe that? It’s because they know their actions are normal and culturally acceptable — that this is part of what they get access to by virtue of being male. Mr. President, can we get a task force to undo that sense of entitlement? And while you’re at it, can we decommission the military and undo federal recognition for the catholic church while we task force the institutional sexual violence out of those sanatoria as well? Don’t you know that ending sexual violence on campus means changing the way that we as a culture make boys and make girls? That it means either arming the girls or actually training boys to be different kinds of people? How is your task force going to accomplish that,when it’s almost certain that there are persons on the very committee who will decry the heinous treatment of girls and promise to stop at nothing to root out this evil force veining its way through our campuses, and will then go home to a child bent over their homework, hiding in their room, crossing their fingers that tonight he won’t demand to give them “just a back-rub” that they know will end in something worse?

Today I am not optimistic, even though I do know that things can change. I know that men can change. I know that women can change. I know we are fighting a terrible battle when we attempt to take children’s bodies out from between the teeth of people who have been groomed to believe they are entitled to them — they bite down hard and don’t let go easy. I need some hope today. I need help from other eyes and minds, to be reminded what is possible.

Let’s be as easy with ourselves as possible today, ok? This work of recovery and lasting change is long and we need to sustain ourselves. Today I send you adoration and gratitude, and I take myself to the seaside for succor. Thank you for your breath and your stories. Thank you for your words.

These days I take what comes and do not push in

peacockThese Days

whatever you have to say, leave
the roots on, let them
dangle

And the dirt

Just to make clear
where they come from

Charles Olson

These days I sleep through my writing time. The words float up like dreams. These days, the stories I want to tell lie quiet at the bottom of a brook among the smooth river stones, rustling gently against one another in the current, the clear water burbling overhead, nothing churned up, nothing muddied or murky, nothing alarmed. These days, I sit by the side of the water, knees pulled up to my chest, watching the little minnows swim by. I listen to the electric sound of the forest songbirds high up in the pine trees. There are dogwoods and azalea in full springtime bloom. Somewhere into the deeper shadows, squirrels search for the acorns they planted last fall. Somewhere, the deer and bear dream their daytime dreams. Somewhere, the man who put his haunting into my chest when I was just a little girl does whatever men in prison do. The moss and loam and leaf mould makes a soft cushion. Somewhere, there’s other work to be done. Inside, there are major and minor tightnesses. Inside, the old drowse of loss pulls at the chains in my chest. Inside, I worry that I should be making something more of this life. I watch the water push over rocks and boulders. I watch the sheer persistence of the water carve out its place in this woods. I watch the dragonfly dip and dive, searching out mosquitoes and gnats. I watch the sunlight pulse in streams down through the fir boughs and the new spring green leaves. I do not stir the streambed with a stick. I do not churn up the stones, searching for what lies beneath. I accept this moment of clear and calm as long overdue. I understand that the work is not done. These days I take what comes and do not push in, do not dig and claw at the surface of things to find the underneath face. These days I accept that bird song, the morning sun on my bare toes, the small splashes that reach for my fingers as I hover them just over the water’s belly, breathing deep and releasing.

the garden and the breadbowl as teachers

Good morning, good morning. I’ve got the decaf with soymilk this morning and nothing can stop me — look out. The birds are making their insistent songs under and around the morning serenade of the garbage trucks. Thanks to the folks who collect the garbage, the folks who take away what we have decided can no longer be used. Thanks to those carry the scent of our waste on their clothes, on their skin. Thanks for doing that part of our dirty work.

…If I could not have made this garden beautiful
I wouldn’t understand your suffering,
nor care for each the same, inflamed way.
I would have to stay only like the bees,
beyond consciousness, beyond
self-reproach, fingers dug down hard
into stone, and growing nothing.
There is no end to ego,
with its museum of disappointments.
I want to take my neighbors into the garden
and show them: Here is consolation.
Here is your pity. Look how much seed it drops…
- from “Happiness,” by Paisley Rekdal

What are the things you do to come back into your body? What’s the work you do that brings you joy just in the very doing?

This morning I am sore, my back aches, my hands are rough and stained, and I am breathing more easily in my skin. I spent yesterday doing different work with my hands, and put my body out under the sun. I walked to the neighborhood natural foods store and bought the ingredients for detox teas and sprouts and bread, then came home and got my first batch of California sourdough bread rising. I’d got a starter going last week, and had refrigerated over the weekend — after bringing it back to room temperature, I pulled out a cup and used that for the dough. It took five hours for the first rise, but it rose! Beautiful. My last attempts at homemade sourdough (back in Maine) were so  pitiful that it has taken me ten years living here before I was willing to try again. (After the bread came out lovely, but not at all sour, I looked up some tips on the King Arthur flour website — they told me I ought to pitch that first cup of starter (give it away, use it to make something else), then feed the starter to get it working again, and use a cup of that starter for the bread. I’ll let you know what happens next time.)

When I wasn’t writing or working on an editing project or playing with bread dough, I was out in the garden, weeding. Not planting, not harvesting, but weeding. I cut back the pink ladies’ foliage so that other plants could breathe, and then I did some weeding in the raised beds, in the paths around the raised beds, around the newly-planted salvia and the just-beginning-to-spread mint shoots. (I know, I know, everyone warns me about the mint taking over, but in all the years I have been gardening, I’ve had sad and leggy mint plants that just sort of straggle around and look like they don’t really know what to do with themselves. I’d be beside myself to have a yard filled with mint.)  Weeding is one of my favorite things to do in the garden — so definitive and clear. This: out. The puppy follows me around with a ball in her mouth, monitoring my progress. I get to have the sun bake my shoulders and back, I get to listen to the bee song and the screams of the junior high kids from across the way, I get to smell the rich earth that reminds me what I’m made of.

Today I am supposed to be talking about writing groups as care for caregivers and partners of trauma survivors, and yet I am here in this place, caregiving myself. I am at a table covered with gardening books and making a list that already has 45+ plants on it that we want to get into the yard and garden this year (please note that this includes my sweetheart’s son’s requests for bacon flower and cocoa beans, however). Yesterday I took my hands off the keyboard and pushed them into dough, pushed them into the soil. My hands are stained with dirt that I can’t remove even after repeated scrubbings, my nails are torn and dirty: they look well-used and strong.

There is no use to tending this garden so diligently. We are in a rented place. Whatever money we put into the garden will ultimately go to waste, right? We’re developing someone else’s property. And yet, this weekend, we’ll go to to the neighborhood yard store and farmer’s market and find our new plantings. I’ll pull up the crabgrass and oxalis and bristly mallow and burweed and spotted spurge from around the stone path that someone else laid down in the lower part of the yard, and plant creeping thyme and corsican mint as groundcover there instead. I’ll plant hollyhock (for my mother and her mother) among someone else’s roses. I’ll plant daises and gerbers for my love. I’ll plant yarrow and echinacea and delphinium and calendula and globe amaranth for the butterflies and bees. And we’ll get the edibles in, too: watermelon (second try), onions, basil, tomato, cukes, bush beans, eggplants. Try it all again. When we move, none of this effort will be wasted. Every minute in the garden is a moment of phoenixing, of allowing something new to rise from fermentation and diligent, loving attention.

Yesterday I was writing about letting the new rhythm find me. Gardening and baking helps me to do this — they each have their own layers of rhythms, their own tides, their times of activity and their times of rest. They each will show you what they need if I learn to listen and pay close attention. So I am listening and paying close attention. I nurture the starter, I do a little weeding each day, I remember that what we tend to reveals what we love. What if we love ourselves enough to do what we love to do, even when that work seems (in the short term) to do no service to the greater social justice needs of the world? Tending the garden doesn’t change the world — though it does help my neighborhood, and it does bring beauty and goodness into the lives of those I love; kneading bread doesn’t undo rape culture — but it feeds a young man who is learning to navigate the complications of this world — and all of this work feeds this particular person who is finding a way toward some kind of new balance in this lifetime.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for doing the things you do that bring you joy, and that bring joy and beauty into the world.