Tag Archives: reclaiming our erotic story

NaBloPoMo #14: you always believed we could have something more

Today’s post is brought to you by last Saturday’s Dirty Words Sacramento writing group. For our introductory prompt, I read aloud the C.P. Cavafy poem entitled “Body, Remember,” which begins with the line, “Body, remember not only how much you were loved…”

We had ten minutes. Here’s what came for me:

Body, remember how hard it used to be? Remember the armor we wore and the disappointment? Remember the long hours spread open and aching, trying trying trying for release that wouldn’t come? Remember the tension in knees and thighs, how you hardened against the memory, against the loss? Remember how we worked together, one orgasm at a time, to untether you from your pain? Remember how you wanted something easy, how you imagined that someday sex would leave you not spent and sobbing and sorrowful but delighted and laughing and free?  Remember how we thought that was impossible, remember how we thought history, the memory of old hands, unwanted touch, unasked-for experience would always be a skin we lived inside of, something we would have sex through forever? Remember. But in spite of that centering and sorrow, you didn’t quit, body. You always believed we could have something more — or maybe simply something else — sex that didn’t feel like a battleground or a crime scene, sex that instead simply (simply?) felt like connection and opening, power and joy. We are getting there, body, you and I, to a sex that can be free. We stayed on this long road for all these years and never would you let me put sex down, even when I wanted to, remember? And now — now — maybe I am beginning to understand why.

Fall workshop schedule at Writing Ourselves Whole

graffiti of a butterfly hovering a branch that contains two nests of heartsFall is upon us, and many folks are in the back-to-school mode. Maybe you’re ready to pull out those composition books and let your words flow. Maybe you’re finished with summer’s travels and are ready to settle back into a relationship with your words. Maybe you’re ready to find community support for your stories. Whatever your reasons, join us in a group or workshop this fall, and write yourself whole:

Write Whole-Survivors Write. Open to all survivors of trauma
8 Monday evenings beginning October 14, 2013.
Fee: $350
Meets in private workshop space in Oakland, near Lake Merritt.
Gather with other trauma survivors and write in response to exercises chosen to elicit deep-heart writing around such subjects as body image, family/community, sexuality, dreams, love, faith, and more.

Reclaiming Our Erotic Story: Open to all women
8 Tuesday evenings beginning October 15, 2013.
Fee: $350
Meets in private workshop space in Oakland, near Lake Merritt.
Safe space in which to explore our gorgeously complicated erotic selves! Find community around the complexity of desire — and transform your relationship with your creativity and your sexuality! — as you try your hand at explicit erotic writing.

Online writing groups
6-week summer sessions begin October 13, 2013
Final group offered at introductory fee of $100-150.
If you are not comfortable joining an in-person group, we offer online groups as well. This summer, our Write Whole: Survivors Write online is open to all queer/LGBTQ survivors of trauma; Reclaiming Our Erotic Story online is open to all women. No special software required — just a computer, internet connection, and desire to write in supportive community.

Writing the Flood: A monthly writing workshop open to all
Meets the third Saturday of every month
Limited to 12. Fee is $50 (with a sliding scale)
Meets in private workshop space in Oakland, near Lake Merritt
Write in response to exercises designed to get those pens moving, and get onto the page the stories that have been too long stuck inside
Next Flood Write meets Saturday, September 21 (waiting list available).
Mark your calendars now for the Fall Flood Writes: Oct 19, Nov 16, Dec 21.

Dive Deep: An advanced manuscript/project workgroup
Next series begins begins January 2014
Fee: $200/month (multiple-month commitment)
Limited to 6 members per group; contact me to be added to the waiting list for the first DD of 2014.
Meets in private workshop space in Oakland, near Lake Merritt
Designed for those working on (or committing to) a larger project, such as a novel or memoir. Divers meet three times per month for writing, project check-in/accountability, feedback, coaching and peer support.

Create the space this fall for your good words. All workshops facilitated by Jen Cross. Email me with any questions, or visit our contact page to register. I look forward to writing with you!

writing the delicious body stories (why write about sex?)

(Today’s post comes from the book project writing I’m doing, and was inspired by an article I shared on our Facebook page yesterday. Consider this your prompt: how would your “why I write” or “why I write ___” manifesto read?)

First things first — when we write the stories of our bodies, we are writing sensory detail, we are developing character (on the page and off), we create dialogue, we write about place and time — that is to say, we are using all the tools of our craft. This is not merely an exercise in navel-gazing (as though sometimes navel-gazing isn’t exactly and only the right thing to be doing): this is developing our skill as writers.

Also: this writing makes us fearless. When we have written into the most frightening places in our hearts, into the places in our body that moan and sob without words, what can we not do?

And what about when we write the delicious body stories, the stories of our gorgeous desire, deep longing, sex that is wanted and complicated? What could that do for us?

Let’s make a list. This is what writing about sex can do:

1) Writing about sex can bring you back in touch with your bodily experience through the process of imagining and writing it out.

2) Writing about sex invites us to use everything as material — making even that terrible first date at the Power Exchange worthwhile.

3) Writing about sex can remind you how much fun the words of the body are.

4) Writing about sex, because sex is our birthright, can be way to offer tribute, thanks, and mourning, all at once.

5) Writing about sex is fun; it can turn you on while you’re writing (always a good sign) and can encourage you to explore in words something you had only imagined previously — or had not even allowed yourself to imagine.

6) Writing about sex can help you get more comfortable with the words of sex, making it more possible to say what you mean when discussing or negotiating play/sex or describe (in detail) just what sex you are consenting to — it can also make it easier to discuss sex, without or at least with less shame and embarrassment, with kids when they have questions, thereby breaking the cycle of silence and making it easier for them to talk to you and others in the future. We learn to model the kinds of conversation we want to be able to have.

7) In writing about sex, we learn to find language for our joy as well as for our struggle, learn to describe what feels good and why and how — in writing sex, we go to our own bodily experience first for reference and detail, even when we are writing about bodies different from our own. We start with our sensation and where it combines with our imagination. We use what we know and what we could know. We deepen those neurosynaptic grooves.
I also think this gets us paying closer attention to sex when we’re having (which is double-edged, of course, if we are paying closer attention just to get the words right for the next time we’re writing. A useful exercise for a moment, but, for me at least, the larger goal is to be fully present in the moment. Still, as writers, we often just can’t help ourselves).

8) Let me go back to joy: we are given much encouragement in this trauma-porn culture– in a society much more comfortable with violence than sex (and that often conflates the two and teaches us to do the same)– to find language for what hurts and what we have suffered. We can generally find a friend willing to listen to our struggles, and often find it ardor to get someone to sit down with us and talk with us about the really great sex we had last night. We are not supposed to put words to this joy. Why is this?
This is problematic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we who are survivors of sexual trauma know what a wonder it is that we even had the hot sex; we know all the chips stacked against the possibility of us ever having hot sex. We know what work we’ve done to be able to be in our body enough, and out of the flashbacks and negative body memory enough, to pick someone(s) who are present and kind and generous enough to make hot sex possible. We know what a wonder it is and we deserve for that wonder to be celebrated.

Our culture needs more joy, more sex, not less — not sex as advertisement or sex as product, but sex as embodiment, connection (including with ourselves), as creative manifestation, as transformative practice. What if more of us got to talk about that with our friends? To have more of the language of joy in our mouths?

9) Writing about sex can help develop our empathy for others.

10) We have heard about the power of writing what’s hard. We have heard about the power of writing envisionings, desires, affirmations — of finding deep, energetic and specific language for what we want. We have heard about the power of gratitude practice. Writing sex can be all of these things, and then some.

Writing sex is writing our trauma and our joy. It’s writing our gratitude and writing what we hope and long for. It’s finding our way into our own language of our body, finding the particular grammar and linguistics of our own skin and bones. It’s finding our tongue’s breath and breadth. It can be affirmation and revelation all at once.

That sounds like an overstatement, but I have been there and I have seen. I have seen how we soften and smile when we find and share the language of our longings, as fiction or poetry or declaration. I have heard that laughter
that is both embarrassed and brazen. I have felt the edges of us begin to crenelate. I have watched as we drop into our bellies, intense our arms, let our thighs fall open just a little: I have seen us find our center of gravity, touch more fully into what roots us now.

a relationship with home again

graffiti on a street corner of the Buddha's faceYesterday we hiked up a mountain — a small mountain, Tiburon mountain, sure, but when we came to the top, we could see the full body of that orange Golden Gate Bridge, hugged thick by fog, nearly weighted down. We could see the whole fog-heavy morning laid out in front of us.

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This week, the workshops begin again — tonight I’ll be meeting with a full Write Whole workshop, and throughout the day, I’ll be communicating with folks who’ve signed up for the online Reclaiming Our Erotic Story class. I’m making my first videos ever for the online workshop — I feel like we get closer to the ‘in person’ experience if folks can hear the prompt, rather than read it. We’ll see how that goes.

I rarely watch or listen to recordings of myself — this is good practice in releasing self-judgment. Yesterday I felt like I joined the modern age: I took a shower and fixed my hair and got dressed up, all so I could create a youtube video. Then I changed into my regular clothes again.

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It’s getting close to shower-time. The puppy is tearing up a toy and having a great time. This morning we walked up the hill to the old church that sits above our apartment building, and I missed my mom, who walked up there with us the first time last weekend.

I have been homesick for a long time, and I’m not at all sure what that means. How to feel homesick when you don’t have a singular or solid sense of home? And yet, this longing is true in my body, a welling in my belly, filling the whole front of me, chest, shoulders, pelvis, with ache and want. Is it a honing toward a sense of place, a desire to know the people who my blood would call family, a wanting the deep damp and heat of midwest summer?

What does home mean for you? What about homesick?

I realized yesterday that I’ve been away from the place I was born for a generation. My cousins all have babies, some of them grown, and I barely know any of these people. Do I have a right to still call that place, these people, mine?  What is this desire to go back, or to go forward into that land that for so long I couldn’t even imagine being able to escape?

The land itself wasn’t my prison, and those places hold history for me, they hold stories I barely remember, they hold the rest of my stories, the ones that don’t live all the way in my body. And the truth is that I need those stories, those connections, that place that holds me like something right fitting around my shoulders. People who talk like I do, even when I don’t always agree with what they have to say. Could it be that I’ve moved far enough away from my desire for ideological perfection that I could have a relationship with ‘home’ again?

Anyway — a prompt for today: What’s home mean? Let’s start with this phrase: This is what home means for me (or him, or her, or you…) Take 10 minutes, write down every free association, every image or voice or feeling that arises. Let it all come, in its wild and complicated, painful and gorgeous and frustrating mix.

Thank you for the ways you let home come into you, the ways you let yourself become home, for different parts of yourself and for others around you. Thank you for the ways you write yourself home, for your words.

maintaining creativity and survival

graffiti of vines, painted in white on red brick It was 47 degrees when I turned on the space heater in our office this morning. Thank god we’re moving.

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Let’s start the year writing! Here’s what’s coming up: on 1/15, the first Writing the Flood of 2011! Then, on 1/29, come on up to Sacto for a day of erotic writing and fun: Reclaiming our Erotic Story: the Liberatory Potential of Writing Desire.

Visit the links for more information or to register — can’t wait to write with you!

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Still learning the ostrich feathers of my own heart, still learning how I grow, how I twist, how tenacious and strong my roots are, what I care for even without conscious awareness.

One of the things I struggle with (and also have been saved by) as a survivor has been living in the present. As in, only in the present. Even still, when I get very stressed, suddenly time itself seems to contract and all I can think about is the very right now: nothing else matters, or even exists. Until quite recently, making a 5-year plan seemed outrageously outlandish to me — how can you plan for a future you don’t see yourself in?

This isn’t about feeling suicidal, it’s something different — something about having to be very very present in the right now, in the this moment, just to put one foot in front of the other, just to maintain.

And these days, I am learning how I don’t maintain anything else — just the present moment. In the Open Exchange magazine (yes, I do read it sometimes — no judgment, blame, shame, or guilt around these parts!), Claudia Six writes about the importance of maintaining relationships. She says that relationships are like plants: they have to be tended and nurtured.

As I was reading, I thought: But I don’t tend to or nurture my plants — or my car, or my body, my car or my relationship(s). I expect it all to just carry on around me.

Claudia Six writes, “[Y]ou don’t wait until you need a root canal to go to the dentist” — and I thought, Actually, I do. She suggests, rather matter-of-factly, that folks don’t wait until there’s a catastrophe before they attend to or maintain the things they care about.

But I do. I wait until there’s a catastrophe. I wait until things are falling apart and have to be replaced. I don’t mend, clean, wash: maintain. What is that about? Do I act like royalty in this way, like my stereotype of the very upper-class, the wealthiest people who just throw away the car with the check engine light on instead of taking it in for regular service and fixing small problems before they grow?

Maintenance requires a larger vision — I mean, a larger view. A wider view. Catastrophe is immediate, and, of course, eminently more familiar. Catastrophe is right now. Maintenance is dealing with what’s possible, thinking ahead, is preserving for the future — this assumes the existence of a future.

It’s hard for me to do this writing: I don’t know another way to be.

Maintenance, as in self-care. What an idea! Clearing before the house is filled with clots of dust bunnies. Weekly tending to the plants. Daily food preparation. 6-month dentist visits, annual dr. visits. These can seem somewhat extreme to me. It ends up that I only want to deal with crises.

What’s the point of taking care of myself — maybe I just end the question there? What’s the point of maintaining what surrounds me, to moving away from living from crisis to crisis? (That sounds like a prompt-type question.)

This is life has looked like: crisis – mobilize resources, man up, make sacrifices of money and time — and then recover — excuse not to do anything, watch tv movies, don’t return phone calls (too busy! too tired!), be unavailable  — build up to the next crisis (because everything’s being left to the side while you recover). It’s totally that old cycle of violence, having to put out fires in all parts of my life over and over again.

What would it meant to be calmer? I can feel myself relaxing into that possibility (breathe into it, actually). Too, it feels more boring: less important, less adrenaline. Important people have to deal with crises! It’s absolutely part of my identity to be too busy, too busy. Too tired, too many jobs: Something to be admired for, and an excuse not to have clothes that fit, an excuse not to have time for deepening relationships, an excuse to be noticed but unavailable. Whew. What does/would it mean to release that part of my identity?

If 2011 is about fully devoting myself to and living a creative life — that means balancing in some organization and maintenance, at least for this one life here. Organize and maintain so that there’s time for spontaneity and play. That means being aware and intentional with money. That means self care comes first. Enough sleep comes first. Being healthy and sane has to come first because I stop functioning otherwise and so do the workshops, which have become my heartbeat.

What can maintenance look like for the different parts of our lives? Let’s make that the prompt — How can maintenance not equal dull? How can maintenance be creative and joyful, life-affirming, even? (Remember: You can write about this for/with any characters you want to learn more about, if you’re working on a fiction piece!)

Thank you for all the ways you maintain — and what you maintain, even without being fully aware of it. Thank you for your writing, your words, your words.