Tag Archives: school

pay attention to what worked

Good morning! What does Wednesday look like where you are? Here it’s a walked puppy, sprawled on the floor, gnawing on a rope bone. Also: dandelion-tulsi-cardamom-and-anise tea and grey-but-blueing skies.

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It went ok, the test, the GRE. I think it went ok. Overall, I think actually went well. I think all the preparation was worth it. Those 3.5-4 hours flew by. There were answers I know I could have gotten that I didn’t manage to figure out, problems that I knew how to do that I choked on. I hate that feeling, and am frustrated, too, that I’m perseverance about what went wrong.

This is why it’s helpful to have immediate positive feedback after writing: we are already ruminating and spinning over what didn’t get done right, what could have gone better, why we weren’t perfect. When we get to hear and see, right away, what went well, then we have voices to counteract the inner editors, the inner naysayers. We have a little more ammunition. What’s a non-war metaphor for this? We have more weight, we have a counterbalance, we can see ourselves a little more clearly in the positive.

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Took yesterday off, did no email or facebooking or other electronic anything outside of radio and movies. It was a kid-day: popcorn and chocolate for breakfast (and then an adult evening — lentils for dinner.)

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Getting ready for work now — I’ll add later to this post, will share a write from Monday’s Write Whole workshop. The prompt was this: “What would you do differently if you knew you only had the rest of your life to live?” (from “Mortality,” Marcia Davis-Cannon).

Take this one for your prompt today, if you like. Take 10 minutes, push onto the page, and play.

Thank you, for everything.

fear & curiosity

graffiti of a butterfly hovering a branch that contains two nests of heartsGood morning!

(too nervous for much else)

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My pup was brave this morning on our walk. She hates storm grates, goes out of her way to avoid them. She’ll run in to me, stop walking, pull at the leash to keep away from whatever’s down there.

This morning, there was a lemon sitting on the storm grate that we pass at the beginning of our neighborhood walk. She stopped, intrigued, then planted her feet and pressed her body forward, both hesitant and driven. She wanted to see what that thing was, but it was hanging out in the scary place! She spent several moments, inched closer, danced around a little bit, managed to get closer to the storm grate than she has yet in our walks together so that she could satisfy her curiosity.

Her bravery helped her push past the fear. It’s not a metaphor, that story, but it could be.

I’m off to take the GRE today, a test I’ve been terrified to take. I took it once, back in the early 90s, after I’d been forced to withdraw from school, but it’d been too late to get a refund on the test so I just went ahead with it. I can’t tell you anything about that test; it’s gone from memory now. When I looked at MA programs, I selected only those that didn’t require the GRE — who needed it.

Turns out I do. I am curious about some things, and want to study/write about/talk about/learn about them more deeply. In order to do that in a way that works for me, I need to pass through this fire. This morning I am taking Sophie’s energy, her spirit, that moving in with purpose and awareness, in spite of fear, with me.

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A quick prompt — maybe you saw this one coming: write about a situation you or your character moved through, driven by curiosity, in spite of (but along with) fear.

Thanks for how resilient you are, the way you hold your fear by the hand and show it what you both can accomplish when you just keep going. Thank you for your words.

slippery encapsulants

graffiti of a tree with purple bulbs-bubbles as leaves!Hello my friends!

Just a quick note — these posts might be a bit erratic/brief over the next couple weeks, as I get down to the wire for GRE prep. Yowza. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me, ok?

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Also, this weekend brings this month’s Writing the Flood session — registration is just about full, but there are still a couple spaces left. Will you be able to join us?

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This weekend I went out to Alamo, CA to assist with the AWA Facilitator/Leadership Training — it was my first time acting as an assistant trainer, and I’m so grateful to have been able to be there. I got to work with 13 women (11 trainees plus two amazing trainers, Jan Haag and Mary Tuchscherer, both of whom I feel so lucky to have trained with!). I want to tell you about the vision, the passion, each of these 13 women carry for the power of words, the power of language and writing to transform and open. I got to spend about an hour on Friday night, talking about my roots in this work, pontificating about why I think this work is so important, why this method works so well for survivors of sexual trauma and folks who want to write about sex, for anyone who wants to tell difficult, intimate, tender stories. I can start to proselytize — thank goodness we moved into an erotic writing exercise.

Here’s what I wrote, using this line from Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Two Countries“: “Skin had hope, that’s what skin does.” It was a short write, just five minutes.

Skin had hope — cunts have hope. They’re just part of these portable bodies, aren’t they, just small gloves, slippery encapsulants, contained amongst themselves, they are our blood and flesh of hope, they are our most resilient hagiographies — they write us throbbing, they wake us into possibility each time they press us open, even with nobody else’s help — sometimes with the wrong somebody else’s help. They don’t know the nature of the pressure, who’s behind that finger, that breath on the neck, that knee between thighs;

Cunts are our ever-present resiliency. They keep on waking — it’s what they know, isn’t it, their one recursive, incipient thought, this inchoate hope that doesn’t have to have a glove to flow into but that shines like morning in us even when we’re aching and ashamed: cunts hold hope for us — that’s their lovely, lonely job.

thanks for your work, your words, your love in this world.

finding a place

graffiti of a phonograph and drops of something (music? rain?) coming out of the amplification part

(this image has nothing to do with today's post, but I really like it, so here you go)

This morning the birds are trilling like mad, and I thought I heard a hawk calling from over the Preserve behind the house. The tea (nettle-dandelion-mint morning wake up tea) is warm in my hands, and my insides feel warm like fear is taking a dive to the edges and something good and possible is filling up the places that it’s fled.

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Early bird registration for the 8-week workshops (Write Whole and Declaring Our Erotic) ends tomorrow! It’s a 30% discount on the registration fee — that’s significant! Write Whole is nearly full — please contact me asap for more info about either of these workshops or to register. The workshops begin the second full week of June and meet for 8 Monday evenings and 8 Thursday evenings, respectively. I’m looking forward to writing with you all!

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I’m thinking about disciplines this morning, not the erotic kind (not that erotic kind), but the school-labeling kind (which can be erotic in its/their own way) — and how the interdisciplinarian finds a space. I’ve been doing interdisciplinary study since forever (cognitive science undergrad, transfomative language arts MA) and now I’m looking for a new interdisciplinary home and at the same time trying to find the right set of disciplinary-term-markers that describe the particular intersection I’m jumping off from/out of/in to: creative writing, trauma theory (itself an intersection of other disciplines), psychoanalytic theory, cognitive science, sociolinguistics, cultural studies, narrative theory,  post-structuralist theory… aren’t there more? Do there need to be so many?

The books I’m reading right now: Telling Sexual Stories: Power, change and social worlds (Ken Plummer, who introduces or reintroduces me to the idea of a “sociology of stories,” which, yes, is exactly where my interests lie) and Psychoanalytic Theory: An Introduction (Anthony Elliott). Next on the list are Peggy Phelan’s Unmarked, Derrida’s Writing and Difference, and Mitchel & Rose’s Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the école freudienne.

Two things I want to say about all that: Thing 1) all of this is erotic reading for me; Thing 2) my mother was an English major/teacher, and then a psychotherapist, and my father taught Social Studies — talk about living into the intersections, no?

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A prompt and a write from this weekend’s Writing the Flood workshop (the next one meets on June 18 — come join us!)

The prompt was to create a short list of small pieces of beauty in your neighborhood — just take a minute, and jot down as many as you can think of. Then give yourself 6 or 7 minutes, and go into one of those pieces in more depth: how does it smell? what does it look like? what time of day do you see it?

This was our first prompt on Saturday. Here’s my response:

On work mornings, it’s the same rush out of the house, down the long stairs, down the driveway and a hard thumping my heels hitting the asphalt hoping I’ve timed everything right, exactly the right amount of time to hustle from my front door to the bus stop so I can catch one of two buses, the second of two buses, that go directly into the city.

And on the way I pass a wonderland that I can barely stop to wonder over, a riot of flowers, blackberry blossoms, nasturtium, red hummingbird-tubey blooms, morning glories, native trees in full pollen, fennel fronds and is that elderberry or queen anne’s lace, all this gathering around a marshy pond filled too with ducks, mourning doves, Canadian geese; the red-winged blackbirds whirr their morning greetings and the other day I saw a coalition of four or five smaller birds (swallows, sparrows, blackbirds, crows) hauling ass after a red-tailed hawk, chasing her out of their territory.

Every morning I want to make a sharp left at the tiny concrete bridge over the run-off brook making its way into the pond from the hills, and dive into the wild California brush, learn the feel of this spring mud between my toes, let the city bus, the city life, pass me by.

You find so much beauty everywhere — thank you for the ways you do that. Thank you, always, for your words.

prejudice and rethinking

mural of young woman bunching up huge numbers of calla lilies for marketToday I woke up from a dream about us living in a house here in town, one we haven’t been able to see inside of yet: in the dream, I could see the big, fat calla lily in the front yard. I’ve been having a hard time getting enough sleep, and somehow managed to wake up, get out of bed, when my 2nd alarm went off just after 6. I spend most of the morning spinning about my to-do list, which I am best able to tackle early in the morning. With this day job, I spend the bulk of my best and most creative working hours either getting ready for work or in commute — by the time I get to the office, the yoke of the day has set in.

What would it be like if this were my priority, the workshops, writing about the workshops? Have I told this story already? The person who controlled and sexually abused me/my family from 1982 until 1996, when he went to prison, my mother’s second husband, was a therapist — both he and my mom worked with kids who had been sexually abused. This has meant that I have been suspicious of all therapists — all therapists. Even my sister, now, I ask myself — yes, maybe even her. And this is why, named just this week by my former employer: because of my prejudice. I myself have felt it to be a fully-justified prejudice, but it’s a prejudice nonetheless, a preconceived opinion about every therapist I meet, at least momentarily, that isn’t based in any knowledge about that person. Yes, there are lots of shitty and manipulative therapists — and there are lots of shitty and manipulative and abusive teachers and clerks and computer programmers and… abusers aren’t limited to the realm of the transformative/healing arts.

Let me be gentle with it: this prejudice, like an armor, kept me safe — I needed to question and work to trust anyone who called themselves a therapist; I didn’t want just anyone thinking they could get at my brain. I still don’t. I know what they can do — ok, what some people who call themselves therapists can do with the skills and knowledge they have been entrusted with.

Given this prejudice, what does it mean, then, if I am successful as someone who walks with and witnesses folks through their own transformational processes? You’ll notice I am careful not to use the word therapeutic (which, yes, has medical connotations at the root, but also means, in our current idiom, that which is healing  or helps maintain health): this deep desire not to be one of them. Not to be him.

What does it mean, suddenly, that I can envision myself doing one-with-one work with people around their struggles to find language for their stories, to find words for what wasn’t allowed words, to access their own, individual, brilliantly creative languagings and tellings for the unsayable? Is that part of what feels like it’s crumbling inside?

What does it mean to release a prejudice?

These are the questions that I want to take to school: how is it that we humans are shaped by/created by language — how does that occur? What happens to that languaged self (and how does this happen for people differently in different situations at different ages) when we are traumatized? What happens, neuro-linguistically or psycho-linguistically or socio-linguistically, during an expressive and witnessed/communal writing practice, for folks who have experienced trauma? What’s the connection between our being language and our embodiment? What’s the erotics of a languaged self, an ability to express our desire? I’m desperate to get Lacan and Pennebaker talking, Foucault and Pat Schneider, Carol Queen and Audre Lorde and Saussure and Kristeva and Califia and more.

What about a prompt: A prejudice is any preconcieved notion, positive or negative, formed about a person, place, thing or idea without experiencing them/it directly. What are your character’s prejudices — what does she believe about certain people or places without needing to meet them or go there? Does she know that all liberals are kind to animals, that all people who drive Priuses care about the ocean, that all 7-11 clerks are slackers? What prejudices has she released over the course of her lifetime? How did she come to understand that she had a prejudice, and then decide to let those go? Let yourself meet those inside places that shape her vision, shape how she interacts with the world, even without conscious knowledge.

Thank you for your wisdom, the way you have allowed your experiences to guide you to this now, and the ways you have been resilient around questioning your beliefs and letting new information in, growing and stretching and holding on. Thank you for your dense and thick creativity, for your amazing words.