Tag Archives: reclamation

We deserve to be celebrated

Good morning good morning. This morning I was up early, at quarter to five, and managed to actually pull my body from the bed in order to write. Yesterday, too. Maybe I am entering a new (old) creative circadian rhythm. Time will tell.

This morning I am feeling deep and quiet with a kind of appreciation that maybe I should better call reverence.  I want us to celebrate anyone who is doing any work to connect to the real and authentic heart of their sex, their desire, their erotic self. We as a culture do not encourage this kind of work, and we don’t make space for it. We want sex to be business or irony or easy; we don’t have a lot of room for real sex.

If you know anyone doing this sort of work for themselves — for example, reconnecting to a traumatized sexuality, taking steps to manifest a long hidden or silenced desire, or trying something that they’ve always wanted to try but have been deeply afraid of, saying what they really want, knowing what they really want, saying yes as well as no, reembodying during sex, allowing themselves to have a body during sex — I want you to celebrate them. If you are doing this work, I want you to celebrate yourself. This labor is deeply powerful — it transforms our relationship to our whole lives, not just to our sex lives — and it is so often unwitnessed and unreverenced.

There are so many reasons not to do this work, so many very good reasons to walk away from sex forever. But we don’t, many of us. We don’t. We want to know what all the fuss is about. We want our bodies to know this joy. We take classes and we read books; we try to learn the languages that the untraumatized around us seem to speak with ease — with ease, can you imagine?

We talk to therapists, we sign up for groups, we risk saying aloud what it is that we want. It seems so simple and small to write it here, and I keep pausing as I type, wanting something more profound to say. But this is it: I’m grateful to you. I honor the work you are doing. I recognize the struggle, and I want to celebrate with you your successes. Where do we get to be witnessed in the work of our body’s unlearning trauma and reengaging the language of yes and hope? Where do we get to be met on this path? So many of us have our eyes cast downward, we are not supposed to be seen: this is shameful work. Sex is shameful stuff. We all know that. We know that we’re supposed to be able to do all this sex stuff naturally, that the normal and healthy people can do it naturally, that if we were normal and healthy and untraumatized, we would only have ease and delight in our sex. Isn’t this what we know?

Of course it isn’t true — one doesn’t have to be a survivor of sexual violence or molestation to grow up with confusing and damaging ideas about sex in this culture. But we who did have to walk through the land of erotic loss, those of us who did have to unlatch our skins from our psyches in order to survive into adulthood, we assume we are alone on the path that leads us back into the delight of the body. We certainly don’t see anyone else walking with us. All of us keep our eyes cast down and our mouths shut when we are in public– and often when we are in private, too. We know about shame, and we certainly don’t want anyone else to be embarrassed or uncomfortable. We don’t want other people to know that we don’t have all the answers already, we don’t want people to know that we are broken.

But how long does it take for us to realize that many, many people feel broken; that many, many people feel lost and confused around sex; that many, many people want more from their erotic life but are too afraid or ashamed or embarrassed to reach for change?

The fact that you are doing so is cause for celebration. The fact that you are making room for your grief and loss, as well as for new ideas and possibility, deserves recognition. The fact that you want to be all the way in your skin — with or without another person nearby — is a holy thing. It’s magnificent. It’s beautiful and life-affirming, not to put too fine a fucking point on it, and I am grateful for you today. We have every reason in the world not to want anything to do with sex. We have every reason to put sex down and never pick it up again. But you decided to pick it up again. You decided to put it back in your mouth and against your cheek. You decided to take the risk of imagining, dreaming, fantasizing. You put to your lips the words for what you want. You allowed yourself even to want. You know what an extraordinary thing that is. I know, too. Today I want to celebrate you. I want to celebrate every person I’ve written with or spoken to who has undertaken the private, gorgeous labor of untangling their erotic from their trauma, of untangling their bodies from the mouth of history. You deserve a cheering crowd. You deserve confetti and a marching band. You deserve witness and withness. You help make the body of this world more inhabitable. Thank you. Keep going, ok? Please don’t stop.

this family I’ve been dancing around the edges of

Good morning this Wednesday morning. Where I am, the sun is still behind the thick early fog; even the Oakland hills aren’t quite visible yet. The puppy is at my feet, chewing away at her toy tire, and my morning candle is a needed thing in this just-undusk.

What does family mean to you? Could it ever mean anything uncomplicated again?

This morning, I would like to bake bread: turn on the radio and dial the tuner to an NPR station, get out the hand mixer, and toss the oats and honey and yogurt and blackened bananas and nutmeg and salt and baking soda into a bowl — I’d like to be preparing something to feed your family. I’d like to prepare something to feed this little family that I am dancing around on the edges of. I’d like a slow morning, with laughter and investigation and silliness — everybody reading their own piece of the paper, sharing sections aloud, asking what the others think, while the puppy takes up her place on the living room carpet and disassembles her toy.

There’s something I would like to write about family, but it’s not quite time yet. There are some topics that are private, are for inside writing, are for notebooks and handwritten journals.

This is what I will tell you: I have generally felt, since 1994, that I was outside of family, that I didn’t belong to the body of anybody’s blood. Do you know what I mean? Family became an abstract word to me, a sort of violence that I no longer had to participate in because I had been ejected. I walked away. Of course that’s not true: I didn’t just walk; I ran. Family was never an abstract violence; it had come to mean either abandonment or captivity and terror. The second ten years of my life managed to wholly undermine and undo the lessons of the first ten years, which had taught me that family meant pleasure, safety, silence, worry, and laughter.

Last week I spent time with my blood family: my father, my sister, their partners. We met at the top of the middle of the country and spent several days generally adoring one another’s company. We ate together, drove out into rainstorms and then were finally safe enough with each other that we could huddle together in a tiny space, to get away from the hail, without feeling at risk. Let me not use that royal we — I had to sit in a tiny space in the front of my dad’s wife’s jeep, wedged between my sister and her husband on one side and my father in the driver’s seat, and nothing in me was afraid or on alert. I am only just realizing this now, five days later. In the moment, when my body was shoved close to my sister’s and my father’s, I didn’t feel anything but amusement at the situation and a general (normal?) satisfaction at being with them.

It didn’t used to be this way. For years I was uncomfortable being too close to my sister — I was afraid that my very presence would do a violence to her. I was hyperaware of where her body was in relationship to mine.

And in the early part of this journey away from trauma, when my father and I became aware of how broken our relationship was (after the conversation in (was it?) 1995 or 1996 when I had to tell him (my sister told him first, she broke the ice, she was the brave one) what had happened to us when we were out of his custody and being kept away from him at our mother’s husband’s house) — how do you use those sorts of words with your father? How do you find the language to describe to your father — he who had been meant to protect you — what you had to do to and beneath a grown man’s body? Talk about unspeakable. I kept most of the words to myself; he heard them when my statement was read into the court record in lieu of testimony, during my stepfather’s trial. I spent those years keeping a distance from my father’s body. I forgot — or it was no longer an option to remember, and so I released — a child’s easy comfort with a parent’s physical being.

Do you know what it’s like to be jealous of a young boy leaning in on his mother’s body, like that’s a safe place for him? Like that’s a place he deserves to belong?

My family and I have been working at this thing of reconnection and recovery for a long time. We have worked at this thing of reclaiming a sense of family that is safe and possible, both new and old. During our days together last week, I felt a new (or old?) kind of ease around them: there were no major meltdowns, no massive triggers, and, this time, the tears that came were mostly joyful ones. And I sat in that jeep, pressed close to my father’s body, and smelled the cologne that he’s worn all of his life and felt only familiarity and gratitude.

There were years when I could not have imagined this, when I thought family would always and only mean loss. Now I am wondering about something new.


writing our lacunes

miss.tic graffiti in Paris with the words, A Lacan ses Lacunes (Lacan has its gaps (lacks?))Good morning! The birds are doing their short sharp morning songs out my window. Who’s complaining?

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I just thought of the last prompt for this weekend’s Writing the Flood workshop — it’s going to be a fun one! Just a couple of spaces still open. Please let me know if you’d like to join us!

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This morning I’d like to talk about psychoanalysis — but the joke (or not joke) is that I don’t have the language yet for the conversation I’d like to enter about/around/with psychoanalysis. What I can tell you, though, is that I’m fascinated by my desire to speak (with) that tongue at all. When I was working on my MA, I wrote explicitly against traditional psychoanalysis (without ever studying it deeply) because those traditions had been used directly against me, the language of Freud had been used against me, in my home, by the man who was abusing my family — a man who was himself no analyst, but a dilettante in the arena of psychology. At 12, I didn’t know that. At 14 or 16, he was interpreting my dreams according to whatever analysis worked best for him. I didn’t want any part in those practices — I wanted to help people, work with people, write with people, completely outside the Clinic. Don’t call it therapy — that word made me feel ill (despite the fact that I knew good and generous and thoughtful and engaged therapists, despite the fact that I knew that most therapists weren’t doing what my mother’s husband had done).

(Of course, what I most wanted was to work with people outside of Power — let there be no power imbalances, let there be no group dynamics, let us somehow step outside of our human-ness. This is impossible, and it took several years for me to settle into a kind of comfort with navigating the sorts of Power questions that cycle in and through and around the room during a workshop. I associated Power with perpetration as well– talk about needing to release/relinquish a prejudice: This meant I felt my own personal power was inherently negative, predatory, and I wanted to have no power at all. But, wait, I already hadn’t had power, had I? Or did I just have power negotiating his world, his constructions, his rules? What did it mean to acknowledge and step into my power outside of his world?)

I have written before about re-thinking and even releasing prejudices;  given the vehemence of my arguments against the Clinic, against traditional analysis, it shouldn’t be at all surprising to me that I’m now wanting to study it more deeply (in one of the pieces in my first chapbook, I wrote: If I ignore you, it’s a sure bet I’ve got a crush on you. I’ve even come around to skinny jeans, after a year or so of railing loudly against them.)

And still, those old languagings, the male supremacy, the sexism, the hostility toward woman and mother: all that still infuriates me. Penis envy — really? Are we still having that conversation, that boys shape their sexuality around what they’re afraid of losing, and girls shape their sexuality around what they don’t have? Doesn’t everyone have desire for what they don’t have? Isn’t that what desire means? It’s maybe too early for me to ask these sorts of indignant questions —

But there’s something else that’s drawing me in, particularly around Lacanian analysis and responses to his theories, and it’s deep and personal: I want to know my own secret, hidden languages. I want to know the words for the stuff that drives me. I want to discover the ways I’ve already (always?) been telling the stories that I consciously believe are untellable, through my freewrites, through my speech, maybe through my actions. I want to learn the other languages that I’ve already been speaking. This, to me, seems like something I can come to discover through a relationship with a good analyst, and that’s kind of exciting to me.  Then, too, I want to learn how to help others to find their own relationship with this other language, the language (of) our unconscious, our gaps, our lacunes, through our writing.

That’s the end goal — or end question: is that possible?

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a prompt? What about that quote in there: If I ignore you, it’s a sure bet I’ve got a crush on you. How does that land for you? Is there something/someone you and/or your character is ignoring out of a desire not to be seen as too wanting, or for some other reason? Want to take 10 or 15 minutes and let yourself just freewrite in that direction today?

You’re amazing to me, and I’m grateful for you. Thank you for your words.