Tag Archives: radical self care!

they love it that we’re distracted

 

stencil graffiti of a person bending down in front of a tv screen -- their head is inside the screen. Around the image are the words Good morning, good morning.

there was a cat out on the porch just now, a shadow that smoothed across the morning deck, and stopped at Sophie’s water bowl. I watched her there, looking for bits of food. Then I turned to catch the kettle before it boiled, and when I looked back, the shadow had disappeared.

The morning is a quiet candle and a peaceful place. In two days we’ll get on a plane. In three days we;ll be in Dublin. Just now the temperature in Dublin is… I make myself not pick up the phone to check, not open a safari screen to check. It’s all I can do to remember how to do one thing at a time. The urge to look is a tightness in my belly and throat. Why do I just have to be sitting here typing? I could be reading a book and checking news and listening to news and have bread rising and doing all kinds of other things at the same time. I could be getting information right now — why that need? What’s the urgency about?

 

On Sunday, my sweetheart and I went for mani-pedis, which still feel like an incredible luxury to me. For twenty or thirty bucks, I get to sit in a chair that will knead my back and shoulder muscles, and a person will work at the hard callouses that all of my bare-footing makes, then massage my feet and calves with sugar scrub and oil and lotion and then paint my toes pretty colors. It’s an astonishing thing, so much offering, and all I can do is sit there and say thank you. At one point I looked around; besides my sweetheart and me, there were three other women sitting in these fat chairs and they were all looking at their phones while, at their feet, someone scrubbed or tended or massaged. At their feet, I mean, someone was touching each of these women in a way that was meant to bring some joy, some ease, some relaxation. I wondered whether the phone women were even aware of the sensation, or if they were made so uncomfortable by this act of intimacy that they couldn’t engage, couldn’t acknowledge. They couldn’t put the phones down. I’m not saying that anyone was unkind — everyone was friendly, everyone said please and thank you, everyone tipped, all that. I’m trying to get into a deeper dive here. Is it just about distraction?

We heard on the radio this weekend that people are feeling so oppressed by the number of podcasts they have to listen to that they are listening to them at twice the speed: hurrying through the storytelling, the artistry, so that they can get through it and get to the next one.

There’s something about all this entertainment we have at our fingertips these days, the sheer amount of it at the ready, and how we feel pressured to consume it all, lest we are unable to participate in the cultural conversation. There are whole newsfeeds in my apple news app about Game of Thrones — the show, the actors, the controversies, whether or not its feminist — and I don’t know what they’re talking about, nor do I especially feel a need to know. It it’s taking up room in the place where actual news could live. There’s a feeling of pressure that I am not participating if I haven’t watched The Wire or 13 Things about a Serial or whatever — I don’t even want to try to remember all the shows I’m supposed to be watching or people have told me I have to watch or listen to or that are getting all the press (even though if I tried, I know a lot of those show titles are lodged in my brain, taking up space where the phrasing for “Do you have custard tarts” in Portuguese would like to be).

I mean, there’s something about the amount of entertainment we’re expected to avail ourselves of, and what happens to a culture, to a people, that is over-entertained, that is forever entertained, that is continually distracted and even flooded with entertainment.  The government and planet are falling apart but we’re making sure that we’re home in time for GoT and (“home in time” — what does that even mean anymore? We don’t even get the myth of sharing this consumption of story and celebrity simultaneously, like we used to, everyone watching JR get shot or Mindy marry Mork or the folks getting airlifted from MASH 4077 or whatever — of course, now we can livestream rapes and car-crash deaths, and folks can participate in those at the same time, so maybe we’re coming back around. It’s like the Colosseum, and we’ve become those spectators again, or maybe (let’s be honest) we always were).

How do we remember how to focus on one thing at a time, to be in this now, and to create ourselves? We actually don’t have to watch these shows or listen to these podcasts or watch the now movies or the It youtube channels or continually scroll through the important Instagram feeds. We can turn it off. We can say no. But it can be hard to. Saying no also means saying no to our own distraction, our own desire to be out of our skin, our life our reality. How often have I said recently, Can we just go see a stupid movie and forget about what’s going on out there? We have a celebrity entertainer in the white house who knows exactly what he’s doing: driving the people to their screens — whether to watch him or escape him, it’s all the same result.

Turning all of it off is a different decision entirely. Turning it off and watching bird tv or cat tv or cow tv or street-outside-the-window tv, or reading a real book (one off a screen, one with pages you turn, I mean) uses your brain differently. I feel less scattered, less neurally fragmented, and less frantic, when I put the phone down.

I don’t know what I’m saying. I guess I’m recommending the slowing down, as I always do. there’s a frantic in me right now that I’m talking to, and it’s not a media-consumption frantic, it’s a too-much-to-do-before-we-leave frantic, but frantic is frantic, and if I don’t know how to settle, how to get present, how to focus on one thing at a time, then the frantic just continues. step up into what wants to be.

In the book World Enough and Time, Christian McEwen speaks not just to our oversaturated media landscape, not just to how hard it is to focus on something as ridiculed as poetry when we’re overtaxed in every part of our lives, but also on how necessary slowing down and focusing is for any creative person. The experience of reading her book models the slowing down, the slipping from lily pad to lily pad, the meandering brook and the meandering thought, invites me to remember what it felt like when I was a younger person and I could leave the house with nothing on my mind but meeting the day exactly as it was, letting the day find me, letting myself follow whatever wanted to happen. I didn’t think about it that way when I was little, though. Often it looked like being bored — I’m bored! there’s nothing to do! and our parents let us be bored, or they had too much adulting to do to worry about our boredom, and out of our boredom grew something new, a new game or an investigation of the back area behind the garage and what all was living under those rocks or a book you made yourself out of crayons and paper you folded in half and punched with a hole punch and threaded together with that fat cottony string.

Boredom creates space for creativity. We don’t call it boredom so much now that we’re adults. We call it leaving room open for something to happen. We call it just breathing, or taking a walk, or going for a run or a bike ride or a swim or just sitting in the living room and watching out the window. We even call it, some of us call it, going to our jobs.

Of course, if we have a device in our hands that can deliver entertainment directly to our brains every second of our lives, of course, boredom never ever has to be a problem anymore. And that’s something that those in power are counting on, I think. revolutions are creative practices, after all.

(never mind what it is we’re “entertaining” ourselves with — the violence, the rapes, the racism, the terror.. this has become what we choose to watch. We willingly inflict it on ourselves. We take it into our bodies and brains and call it entertaining, we call it edifying, we say it matters somehow. There’s a reason we can listen to news reports about hundreds of people dying in a suicide bombing without breaking down in extraordinary grief, without recoiling in terror, and can just go on about our day. There’s a reason, and that reason is serving somebody not us.)

Calvin was talking about this twenty years ago. and his critiques were old even then.

It’s not so much that I’m anti-technology or anti-entertainment or anti I-just-need-to-get-out-of-my-head-for-awhile (god knows)  — it’s more that I want us to allow for space for those threads of curiosity and wonder to emerge. We need room for day dreaming as well as night dreaming, we healing, creative beings. We need room for our attention to be drawn to the hummingbird at the feeder, which is much less likely to happen if there’s a jump-cut car chase on the screen.

They design these shows to capture us, you know. You know this, to knot us in, to keep us watching. It’s their job. That’s fine, they can do their job. We don’t have to always say yes. Sometimes it’s an act of radical self care to set the entertainment down and let ourselves be in the world, even for the space of ten deep, fierce breaths.

It comes as no surprise that those people who choose to pause at regular intervals report almost immediate effects in therms of personal well-being. William James is especially eloquent on this. “The transition from tenseness, self-responsibility and worry, to equanimity, receptivity, and peace, is the most wonderful of all those shiftings of inner equilibrium…and the chief wonder of it is that it so often comes about, not by doing, but by simply relaxing and throwing the burden down.” Rhythmic creatures that we are, it makes sense that we should choose to do this in a predictable way, whether in the form of feasts or holy festivals, or at regular secular intervals. The pause is delicious in and of itself. But repeated, rhythmic pauses, like our contemporary weekend, pauses that can be anticipated and relied upon, are ten thousand times more precious. – World Enough and Time, Christian McEwen.

Be easy with yourselves today, ok? Thank you for the space you make for your dreamself, your curious self, your wondering self. Thank you for the words in you.

uprooting and untangling the binds of rape culture

Squash seedlings, damp, spreading out in morning sunlight

Squash seedlings almost ready for transplant!

Good morning, good morning. What’s the sun doing where you are right now? How is it feeding your heart?

Even though it’s possible, here in California, to garden year-round, I still live with the rhythms I learned growing up in zone 5 out in the midwest, where one had to take a break in gardening overwinter because, you know, snow. But every late February, something about the quality of light changes, and I get called back out into the garden. We moved last fall, so I have a new garden to build here. I’ve put in some carrot and radish seeds, have peas and chard and onions and herbs and nasturtium and sweet pea growing, and I can just barely see the tips of gai lan seedlings. It’s hard not to want to do it all right now, to have the garden bursting with color and fruit and flower that we left behind in Oakland. I’m re-learning the slow work of cultivation.

I had to dig out some kind of tenacious weed yesterday — California burclover, I discovered — and, while I dug my fingers around a particularly obstinate stem, I got to thinking about the work of uprooting rape culture.

The burclover, right now, is lovely, tender, with clover-like leaves and small yellow flowers. You can just barely see the buds of the fruit next to those flowers; the green pods are covered with a fine fringe that, when they get brown and dry, will turn into spines that dig into any bare feet or paws that go walking through the lawn. I know from past experience how difficult it is to get rid of these plants once they’re established in a garden, so I started pulling them out of this new yard as soon as I realized they were what was matting the area around my garden bed. But they don’t come up easy — though each plant just has one white taproot (like a dandelion) holding it in place, aboveground it sends out suckers and vines that also put down little roots in the soil as they spread. If you can get the whole rosette in hand and twist up, often you can pull up the taproot, too, but the sucker branches twist into those of other plants, growing over and under, through and around. Untangling those as best as possible, trying to save other small plants caught in between, becomes the slowest part of the weeding process.

I spent more than an hour on this yesterday, and still only managed to clean out a couple of square feet, barely noticeable if you’re not paying close attention. The ground I’m working with is clay-y and hardening — often, instead of getting the taproot out, I just tore off the surface greenery, leaving the slick greenbrown stems. I got out tools, used the hand cultivator and trowel, spent several minutes on each one of these plants, trying to dig out the root.

It was good and patient work, centering, calming.

While I was at this, I thought, This is what the struggle against rape is like — this is what it takes to end or change a cultural mindset that says that some people (mostly men) should get to have sexual access to the bodies of the people (mostly women and children) whenever they want. This mindset has deep roots, is well-established, can look harmless at first, in certain lights or seasons or when young or early in relationships, say, and gets twisted into and through the rest of society, choking the life from other things — both wild and cultivated — that need air and light and room to grow.

A bucketful of burweed

I can’t pull out one plant and be done with it. I have to try and get them all. But I can’t do it all at one time, nor can I do it all alone, as burweed certainly has a presence in every neighbor’s garden and in the wildlands back behind the house. I have to be vigilant, return to the same spots that I worked over yesterday to pull up the plants that I missed or whose roots kept hold. And during the time that I live here, I won’t eradicate all the California burclover. But I’m also choosing not to lean on the easy solution of poison, which will damage the soil I’m trying to reclaim and make it less hospitable for other life, will kill other plants also deemed weeds by a certain type of gardener and the gardening industrial complex, but that I want to nurture and save.

So I keep going in with my bare hands, now, when the fruits are still young — before they dry into hard burrs that are intended to dig into feet and feathers and fur, get carried away to establish new colonies elsewhere — and root out what I can.

The work of change is like this — slow, persistent, requiring patience and tenacity and vigilance. And with as many people as there are tangled up in the binds of rape culture, uprooting it is going to take time, as we try and help untangle the thoughts and beliefs and behaviors and entitlements and shames from the other stuff inside that needs room to breathe but has been choked of light and air — kindness, creativity, vulnerability, humility, grief, tenderness. The work is slow. It may take our combined lifetimes.

But I’ll tell you that yesterday, when I took a break, I noticed how good my body and mind felt, being at this labor, how grateful I was to be outside, my hands embedded with dirt, back sore, the work begun—incomplete, sure, but begun.

milkweed seedlings

My mother taught me the rhythm out of weeding, which, inadvertently taught me the rhythm of change work. She cleared out her huge garden a little bit every day, pulled a few weeds, tended the loosed soil, planted something new – until eventually she had the messy gorgeous beauty that is her sprawling wildflower-herb-vegetable garden. It’s a rhythm, a daily practice, something that can sustain us as we engage in the work of uprooting ideas and mindsets (of say, patriarchy and white supremacy) that have overtaken much more than their fair share of the earth, digging out space for more beauty, more birds and butterflies and bees, more sustenance, more space where it safe to walk on a spring morning in your bare feet.

Is there something in your life that needs some room to grow, to breathe? What would you be cultivating right now, if you gave yourself permission? Take 10 minutes with a notebook, open to a new page, and just write whatever comes when you think about these questions. Try not to edit or think too much about it, and follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go. Be easy with you today, ok? And thank you for your good words.

trusting that moment of release

Relax_harderWe push ourselves hard to relax right. We give ourselves too little time after too long working too much for too many days in a row, and then we expect ourselves to relax at the drop of a hat. Relax, damnit! There’s only these two days of weekend before we have to get back to work! Hurry up and unwind! The pressure to unclench just adds more stress, when we’re supposed to do it both correctly and on a timeline. We tighten more, knot up a little harder, and can’t understand what people mean when they talk about self-care. Who has time to relax? we want to know. There’s just so much to do. And what does relax mean, anyway, for those of us who tensed up as a way of protecting ourselves from the violence that forced its way into our bodies? Don’t those “Just Relax” people know that, for us, being clenched was our radical self care?

What can relax mean for us, then, when being curled into a tight ball was the safest position? What does it take for us to unfurl what has been bound and rigid within ourselves, to trust that we can be safe when we are exposed?

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We’ve had two floating-wave days, two too-hot-to-walk-on-the-sand-let’s-get-back-in-the-water days. Days where I’ve been in the water enough that the sea’s rhythm finally entered my blood. Last night I sat on shore, at dinner, lay in bed, and something in me was still swaying, pushing out and sucking back in. Just now I feel it in my shoulders, around and through the deep part of my chest.

This morning I was out in the water at 9am, the beach still relatively empty; the only other people in the water were the surfers, seal-slick in their wetsuits, and a lone paddleboarder who lay prostrate on his board like he was a reverent welcoming the sun. I stretched my body out in the buoyant salt water and did the same, offering myself to sun and undulance, offering myself to morning-soft air so thick it clings to the skin in droplets, offered myself to the tiny minnows flashing around my ankles in their flickering schools. Offering myself to tern screams and sea gull cries and the waft of plover wings as the body of their flock drifted low over the nearby shore. A few minutes later, some neighbor kids came out and took their place in the water, four of them, at first with nothing to arm themselves against the waves but their bodies — the boogie boards came later.

Here is where I lean again into learning to trust being present and relaxed at the same time. My head dropped down below the surface, ears filling just so and what I hear is not the cheers of the surfers catching a swell or the screams of the kids in the midst of their morning ablutions, but the swish of undercurrent waves, my own breath, the roll of water all around me. I close my eyes, just for a moment (I know better than to keep my eyes closed on mother sea) and just let myself float. Just let myself be bouyed up. For a moment, I imagine two hands, I imagine the body of the sea as mother — of course I do. I imagine this as a place where I can relax, a place I can trust. Just for a moment, I lean all the way in. I relax my arms, legs, quit treading water, I just float. Just for a moment.

That one moment, that deep relax, makes all the difference to me, is what I search for during these days at the water. It’s akin to that moment when I’m on the dance floor — you know that moment, when everything is in sync: the music and the gathered dancers, the bass is perfect and I am in flow, my body sweating hard, I am grinning, I am nearly panting, it’s maybe the better part of the way through the night but the dj has been on a roll and every song is good, every song is so good that I can’t bring myself to step off the floor for a second, I don’t want to miss a moment of it, and the energy of everyone is charged and joyful, and I feel my whole body, my whole self, engage. The rest of everything else falls away. Anything else falls away. Nothing else matters but these beats this circle of muscle and sweat and joy this urgency this well-oiled press forward. Something clicks into gear, we are just in the right now, and in this right now, everything is all right. Everything is better than all right: we are safe enough to be all right, we are alive and alive and alive.

That moment of unfurling into the water’s hold is like that, that moment where everything else falls away, and for a second, you don’t have to worry about the to-do list, you don’t have to worry about taking care of anyone else, you don’t have to worry about everything that’s wrong with you or all that you regret or all you haven’t yet accomplished in  your life. In that moment, you are sheer delight, sheer pleasure, sheer gratitude, sheer presence.

You know — of course you know — what it means to allow ourselves to trust anything or anyone enough to lean in and let down our guard, put away the Watcher that hangs out over our shoulder or at the backside of our consciousness and worries the bones of us with its panics and reminders of all that is still wrong, all that is not safe, all that is not healed, all that is still broken — what it means to give ourselves that moment of peace and ease.

That good moment — I got to soak into that today. And it sunk all the way down into my bones.

retreating anyway

Good morning this morning. It’s still cool out there so far, still blessedly grey. I was just out for an early-morning walk with the puppy, and it was such a pleasure to be out in the neighborhood with the city birds: the night herons hustle overhead toward the lake, and crows gather in their cackling pods, up in the tops of the palm trees, rustling fronds and wings, then dispersing, one by one, to perch on the top of the apartment building nearest ours and watch us as we pass underneath. We walked past the man who I think of as the preacher. He is older, dark-skinned, looks strong, something about him is muscular despite the hunch in his back and the paunch under his t-shirt. He walks the neighborhoods all around the lake, preaching to a flock I can’t see. Morning, he said to me.  Good morning, Sir, I said.

We come back inside and Sophie gets a little breakfast, then perches herself at the window, to watch the morning neighborhood wake up, to watch the men unloading cargo from a trailer in the parking lot next door, to watch the commuters, the other dogs about whom she whines and carries on — Mom, it’s a dog, though! she seems to be telling me, making me think of Buster in Arrested Development. The birds are all gathered at the feeder this morning — they have forgiven me for leaving the feeder  empty for so long, and returned in force. Last night there was a hummingbird at the flower garden I’m slowly building in the window box just outside the kitchen. Maybe she was drawn by  the gladiolus, which are now in their full summer glory, tall, strong stalks of pale yellow throats open to the morning. But she wasn’t in the glads, she was in the nasturtium, pushing her beak into their orange mouths, and then into the alyssum, both of which I brough over from the much bigger garden I tend at my sweetheart’s place, my other home.  I couldn’t move while the hummingbird was hovering there. She glinted bright green iridescent in the waning sunlight, and she took off when she became aware of movement on the other side of the glass — he glass means nothing to her. She came back, though, tasting the nasturtium, tasting the alyssum with flowers so tiny I was amazed she could needle her beak into them. And then she was gone.

I’ve had a couple of days’ repeat in my little apartment, this space which has been so dedicated to writing ourselves whole workshops for the last three years, ever since I moved in. I came over on Tuesday, and have spent three nights in a row, two days. My plan was to have days wide open in which I could just dive into my nonfiction book project (this is how I described it in an email yesterday: a collection of essays about and dedicated to the desiring, creative survivor body — drawn out of these ten-plus years leading writing groups about sex and with survivors and more). I have several hundred pages of text, the barest of a first draft, and I’ve needed space in which to immerse myself in the whole damn thing — not just fifteen minutes here and there to enter edits, but time to spread out the pages, look at them all at once, what I’ve got and what needs filling in, what’s redundant, and how these chapters should start to flow into each other.

When was the last time you gave yourself a retreat for your creative work? It’s not necessary to book a hotel half-way across the country, or apply to and get accepted to a month-long residency somewhere remote and isolated. Those sorts of retreats are good, too, of course, but at least for me, they don’t happen very often at all. Much easier for me to put together a retreat at home, like a staycation for my writing. I set aside a couple of days, blocking them off in the calendar so I don’t schedule meetings or coffee dates). I let my beloveds know what I’m doing, don’t answer the phone, try to stay off of email. And then all that’s left is for me not to derail myself, not to let the inner censors and other creative hobgoblins convince me that really I should be doing something for someone else.

So I spent some hours, here on my retreat, reading, again, about codependence. I’ve been noticing lately how consistently I tell myself I have to take care of everyone else first, all other needs and demands, before I can really do my work. It’s an ongoing battle, uprooting those old learnings, instilled by our particular misogynist culture and reinforced by a stepfather who demanded that all attention be devoted to serving his needs at every minute. Even after all this time as a writer, as someone who can easily passionately encourage the folks in my writing groups to put themselves and their creative work first, I still struggle to do just that.

I spent hours of this mini-treatreat dealing with non-book-related tasks for other people — the newsletter has to get out, I have to respond to them, oh god, I have to mail that thing, this form really needs my attention immediately, if I don’t print out all fifty of these calls for submissions, I’m going to forget them. Whew. The stuff that can — legitimately, honestly — get inbetween us and our creative work is never-ending. At some point, I have to just turn off the computer, take a deep breath, swallow the guilt, and dive in.

It was hard to take these two days and three nights of retreat — I’d originally planned for it to be a week of stay-cation retreat, and then felt bad/guilty/selfish, and so shrunk it down to these couple of days. And even then I was ready to give over one of the days. Fortunately, my sweetheart said to me, I know how important this time is to you. You should really take it. I miss you, but I want you to have this. That’s pretty extraordinary, in my experience.  We all need someone in our corner when we can’t be strong enough to advocate for ourselves — and none of us are strong enough to advocate for ourselves and our desires every minute.

So I stayed and made small meals at my little table and worked into the evening, managing to get into that book work I wanted to do, finally.

The second night here, I ran into a neighbor man while Sophie and I were out for our evening constitutional. This neighbor man is dark-skinned with long dreaded hair and an infectious grin. He likes to talk to me and Sophie. The night we talked, he was kind. He spoke about my energy and power, wanting to touch palms. You’re special, he said. You’re one of the few girls who smiles and says hi. I didn’t get into why most female/feminine folks tend not to make eye contact while they’re just trying to walk home. Sophie sat with us, watching the night street, unbothered and unhurried. Me, I wanted to get back inside and go to bed. The man kept smiling, talking about how people with power, when they share that power with each other, keep it going around the world, influencing more and more positive change. I have talked with this man a few times around the neighborhood. He said, You’re the one I tell I like your haircut, because it reminds me of Mary Martin. I said I don’t know who that is, and he said, The original Peter Pan! Then he told me about how he was famous, but he didn’t get into it directly like that. He said, you know Dire Straits? I said yes. He said, You know that song, “Walk of Life?” and I do, but he sang some of it and none of what he sang sounded familiar. He said, Mark Knopfler, you know Mark Knopfler? I said yes. He said, In the video for “Walk of Life,” when Mark Knopfler comes out and he’s barefoot, comes out into Boston Gardens — and then my neighbor asks me if I’ve heard of Larry Bird, Michael Jordan — he said, Right there, I’m in that video, you go watch, you’ll see me spinning two basketballs and dancing and you’ll say, Hey! That’s Wayne from the neighborhood! You didn’t even know how close you were to greatness!  He was smiling, serous and enjoying this. I said I’d watch it — he said, You google it or so something. I crossed the street then, shook his hand before I left, wanting to believe what he was telling me. I like him and still am a but nervous around him, the way I am be with any man I don’t know well who wants to stop and talk at 11 at night. He said, You go watch it! and I said I’d tell him about it the next time I saw him. We waved good night and smiled at each other. Sophie went to sleep as soon as we got back inside and while I got ready for bed, I looked up the video for “Walk of Life,” which I surely haven’t seen since the 80s on MTV, and sure enough, right near the beginning, before all the sports guys start fumbling and crashing into each other, there’s my neighbor, a younger man, his hair short and cropped tight his head, grinning big, standing in the aisle near the court, spinning two basketballs and dancing. There he is, I said to Sophie, waking her up. That’s Wayne from the neighborhood. Sophie groaned at me and I smiled, too, grateful for this place that and this time, grateful for the space and energy to connect.

Here’s hoping you have some time to retreat into your creative self, for an hour this weekend, or an afternoon, or even, god forbid, a whole weekend sometime soon.

Guest post: Practicing the love for our bodies

Good morning, good morning! It’s a beautiful, quiet February morning here, and I’ve just taken about an hour for reading and quiet and morning pages. How are the words finding you these days?

We have a guest post today from a good friend of Writing Ourselves Whole, Danielle Ragan, personal trainer, health coach, fitness instructor, teacher as well as writer and all-around generous being. She shares with us today her thoughts about body love in the aftermath of trauma, and offers from her practice an exercise that anyone can use to enter into a month of deeper self-acceptance and radical, embodied self love.

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A beggar had been sitting by the side of a road for over thirty years. One day a stranger walked by. “Spare some change?” mumbled the beggar, mechanically holding out his old baseball cap. “I have nothing to give you,” said the stranger. Then he asked: “What’s that you are sitting on?” “Nothing,” replied the beggar. “Just an old box. I have been sitting on it for as long as I can remember.” “Ever looked inside?” asked the stranger. “No,” said the beggar. “What’s the point? There’s nothing in there.” “Have a look inside,” insisted the stranger. The beggar managed to pry open the lid. With astonishment, disbelief, and elation, he saw that the box was filled with gold.

I am that stranger who has nothing to give you and who is telling you to look inside. Not inside any box, as in the parable, but somewhere even closer: inside yourself.

~Eckhart Tolle

Greetings! Who is this random guest blogger that Jen has writing in this week’s post, you may ask? I am but that stranger guiding you to look inside…inside yourself. I may be that stranger for you now, but the beauty about strangers is that all strangers are only companions whom we have not yet met.

My name is Danielle Ragan. And if work were to determine my being, by profession I am a personal trainer, health coach, fitness instructor, teacher, but in my true being I am simply a liver of life! Continue reading

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.