Tag Archives: thanks

grateful that you are in this world

Image: colorful birds sitting on a wire, over the words Gratitude is a funny, complicated, and sometimes difficult thing. 

Thanksgiving can be a challenge for many reasons (not least of which the fact that the story many of us are told about the holiday — that it’s to honor the native peoples of the Americas, who kept the pilgrims/first colonizers from starving to death after settling here — wildly sanitizes and white-washes the true history of European peoples on this continent).

We are told this is a day to be with family– the message is everywhere around us, on television, on social media. But what happens when time with family is toxic for us, or harmful, or just leaves us feeling depressed and sad?

We are reminded regularly, whether we want to be or not, that we should be grateful. We should keep gratitude journals, keep a gratitude practice, that gratitude will help us heal. There are times when that sort of practice works for us. But there are also days when we don’t feel grateful at all — when we just feel grief and loss, and then we feel worse about ourselves because we’re not being grateful, and therefore we are inhibiting our own healing somehow.

In my experience, gratitude can be a generosity we offer ourselves and others, but not so much when it feels forced or demanded.

So I just want to invite you to be easy with yourself today (the same as every day). My hope is that you’re with the sort of family — chosen or blood — that brings you joy, allows you to feel a kind of comfort in your skin.  If you are spending this day alone, may it be time that rejuvenates and brings you peace. If you are working, know that many are grateful for your labor, whether they say it to you or not.

I am grateful that you are here in this world, that you are making it through, that you share your story with your notebook and maybe with your community, too. I am grateful for dogs and music and poetry today. I am grateful that my sister and I made it through, and continue making it through every time we get together and keep rebuilding a relationship that got so profoundly damaged. 

Gratitude is never simple or easy, I think, and that’s one of the reasons I appreciate the WS Merwin poem, “Thanks,” that I share with my workshops every year (and have pasted down below). I am never sure whether this is a hopeful or despairing poem, and maybe it’s both. I dunno — reading it always leaves me with a feeling of humanness, I guess: ridiculous, flawed, reaching, aching. We go on saying thank you even when things are so painful and we have suffered so much, not because we’re stupid or because we’re mindless, but because we are alive and in the struggle of living and loving.

W. S. Merwin

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

(From Migration: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2005). )

One more time — be easy with you today, ok? And if you find some time for some words today, so much the better. Thanks for all the magnificent ways you are you, and for all the ways (visible and invisible) that you appreciate and honor those around you, today and every day.

finding a way into thanks

Good morning, beautiful writers. The sun has just crept itself up over the Oakland hills, and is spilling bold and bright right into my eyes. How is this Monday greeting you?

So, this is Thanksgiving week here in the US. This Thursday is Thanksgiving, that celebration of consumption, that  re-memorying of our national origins. Many of us will be with family, and it will be a struggle. Many of us will not be with family, and that will also be a struggle. Many of us will want more connection, more intimacy, more honesty. Some of us will be right where we want to be. And many of us will, in spite of this national holiday’s ostensible and onerous origins, use this time for reflection and gratitude practice.

There have been years when I raged at anyone who asked me to be grateful, who invited me to remember that in spite of my oppression, I had plenty to be thankful for. Fuck you, I thought. I spent ten years having to lie beneath the hands and body of a man who threatened to kill everyone I loved if I didn’t do what he wanted, a man who brainwashed my whole family, and stole from me both my adolescence and my sexuality. Don’t tell me to be thankful. I am not grateful. I resisted the relentlessly cheerful aspect of survivor culture that wanted me to only focus on the positive. When I heard leaders in the movement telling me that I had to couch all my thoughts in positive terms lest I draw negativity to myself, I simply heard them engaging in victim-blaming; I also heard the sort of brainwashing language that my stepfather used, claiming even my thoughts, and the structure of my thoughts, as his own to manipulate.

I slowly came into my own relationship with gratitude, as we all do, I think. For awhile, whenever I went out to open mics where I would often read about both sex and sexual violation, I wore a t-shirt that read “Lucky.” It was ironic, sure, but also intended to complicate my listeners’ experiences — how could someone who went through sexual trauma be lucky? It was a question I began to ask myself more and more as well.

I began to find that I was grateful for having survived, grateful for having lived through the violence, grateful for the capacity to write and reflect and revision and move forward. This is tender work, this experience of gratitude: I am thankful for the capacity to develop empathy and compassion in the aftermath of my experience of trauma — and I am also not grateful for having been violated. It’s not what doesn’t kill us that makes us stronger; that saying always worked my nerves a little bit. I don’t believe that my stepfather’s violence, or our community’s negligence, made me stronger. Instead, I believe that the strength I manifested in the wake of his awfulness was always in me — as the strength that manifested in the wake of your own experience of violence was always in you. And I am grateful for that strength — as well as for the capacity to feel rage and sorrow and disappointment and joy and desire and compassion and love. I am grateful that I have lived long enough to experience enough healing that I can experience these emotions more fully, more openly, both more messily and more gracefully. I am grateful for the years when I raged against gratitude; it was (and may be again) a necessary part of my process. I am grateful for words, for language, for writing. I am grateful that my body continues to work with me and teach me its stories. I am grateful to continually be cracked open by the beauty of the morning sky, a joyful dog, an enormous love, a new writer’s words, and more and more and more, every single day. I am grateful to have made it this far. I am grateful for another day to try again.

One of my favorite poems is this one from W.S. Merwin, which I hand out to my workshops annually at this time of the year. In it, the poet describes the beautiful ludicrousness of our gratitude: we are thankful even though the sky is falling, even though children are still being harmed in their beds at night and bullied at school, even though our country continues to try to control everyone around the world, even though corporate interests trump natural and human interests everyday. We are thankful even though we are surrounded by pain and violence. We are thankful even though that can’t change what was done to us or to the people and planet that we love.

I am not one to pray, but I do say thank you.

~~ ~~ ~~

What is your relationship with gratitude? Let that be your prompt today — what’s your response to the word or concept? How do you feel when someone asks or invites you to be thankful? Give yourself twenty minutes, and follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

You know this already, but I am grateful for you today, and I am grateful, today as every day, for your words.




12/17: Holiday Dirt: fecund new erotica! A benefit for writing ourselves whole…

Please help to spread the word! xoxoxo

Writing Ourselves Whole presents
~Holiday Dirt: fecund new erotica~
a benefit reading and celebration!

With special guest Carol Queen!
Featuring Alex Cafarelli, Lou Vaile, Amy Butcher, Renee Garcia, Jenn Meissonnier, Blyth Barnow and Jess Katz!

Burlesque! Sweet treats! Chapbooks!

When: Thursday, December 17, 7:30 SHARP
Cost: $10-50: sliding scale, no one turned away for lack of funds
Location: Center for Sex and Culture, 1519 Mission Street (between 11th and South Van Ness), San Francisco, CA 94103

Your winter holidays shaping up to be a bit too wholesome? Never fear — join Jen Cross as she presents these fierce new works from the Writing Ourselves Whole workshops, sharp and sexy writing that will delightfully sully your holiday spirit and open your mind to all sorts of new reindeer/dreidel games!

Celebrate risky writing and readings — let us inspire your erotic imagination.

~~ Can’t make the reading on 12/17? You can still help writing ourselves whole! We are raising funds to pay for our workshop space: whatever you can give will help! Click the link/button below to use PayPal to send your donations. Thank you so much!

A fundraiser for Writing Ourselves Whole (Declaring Our Erotic/Write Whole workshops), which exists in the service of transforming trauma and/or struggles around sexuality into art, and creating spaces in which individuals may come to recognize the artist/writer within.

Holiday Dirt: fecund new erotica, 12/17/09

Thanks today…

This morning I’m grateful for the rain-scented just-washed streets of early downtown San Francisco; the quiet resonance in my office after two nights in a row of deep, engaged, risky writing; the view of both the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate bridge from the BART windows as we approached West Oakland station; the little girl giggling uncontrollably in a packed BART car while she played make-believe hide and seek with her daddy, bringing giggles up to my lips and the lips of other passengers as well, breaking down through some of those early morning pre-caffeinated heading-to-a-day-job-blues sorts of walls…