Tag Archives: writing about trauma

always more possible like this

list photo 051314At last night’s Write Whole meeting, I invited the gathered writers to create two lists, one titled, “This is what my body knew,” and the other titled “This is what my body didn’t know.”

Over there to the left is what my list looked like.

And down here below is what I wrote (all the way at the bottom is what it sounded like):

You do not teach a body this thing, the ability to uncouple itself from its own awareness, the capacity to wrench apart from knowing like a rusty bolt tears away from a wall, following the pull of gravity. This ability can only be discovered. He puts her beside him on an afternoon bed and he has already insisted that she shape her teenage mouth around words that look like Yes.

This is the spoken sentence you would diagram the next day in class: Yes, we can go upstairs.

This is the underlying meaning you would tease out in your essay: Yes, you can remove my clothes and make my body respond to your actions.

This is the meaning so deeply encoded in the sentence, so clogged and clotted in the throat, so wholly without meaning, that any analysis of the spoken sentence would miss it altogether: No, don’t touch me. No, I hate you. No, please leave me alone. I let you do this yesterday why won’t you leave me alone? If I let you do it today you’ll stop bothering me. No I don’t want to No I don’t want to No I want you to die —

These words bubble in the throat and under the skin          these words become the wings of small tree birds caught in a windstorm          these unspoken sentences clog around the throat          tear up through the brain          lift off the top of the head          rise up to the ceiling          these words escape from their locked dungeon          these words make themselves palpable          they latch their claws into consciousness and pull hard as they fly          they rend the singularity he expects her to pretend she is made of          but as soon as he ignores her shaking her head or her tensed muscles or held-together thighs or flailing arms or whispered no or shouted no or wept no or invisible no          she splinters          she erupts into at least two selves          the belly of her sinks deep into midbrain          dives into the holy darkness          goes supernova          explodes          she is lit with new terrain          she was always more possible like this          she lies fingers down beneath fragments of his body          she peels him apart to discover what pieces of his strata still hold the words she was forced to say          where in his nebulae does her unwilling yes still appear?          where in the dust of his destruction exists the shapes of her pretense?          she is not the only animal with the capacity for unsolvability          when he reached into the pockets of his being and pulled out the self that was willing to bend her backward into unselfness, how could he be anything but an empty star, a dead planet, a rock floating          dense and heavy           at the center of her universe? What light left his eyes when he put his fingers in her mouth? What consciousness willingly takes itself apart, hangs its soul on a hook, so its catatonic body can go wilding? What warmth does his body gain my wringing no out of her tongue and painting that good muscle false yellow with yes?

She erupts nuclear beneath his malevolence          she becomes the unreckonable force          no and yes are forever intertwined in the explosion          there is no distance her innumerable consciousness cannot contain now           he will never be able to hold her again

extra:ordinary – Creation is the Opposite of Destruction

graffitileaf(This week’s contribution to the extra:ordinary project (stories of everyday surviving and resilience) comes from Marissa Korbel of San Francisco, CA. In her piece, Marissa talks about the power of namings —  the pain of being named, and the necessity of finding our own names for our own experiences. After you read her powerful piece, you can find out more about Marissa and her work at marissakorbel.wordpress.com.)

Creation is the Opposite of Destruction

I didn’t call it was abuse when it was happening. This was confusing later, because it was reported as abuse. After that, I let everyone call it abuse because that word made sense to them, even if I found it confusing; I was confused about everything anyway. I had labeled it all wrong to begin with. I was usually wrong.

I told a few people about it while it was happening, but it was like telling your friends about the guy you were seeing. Sure, he was 43. Sure, he was our teacher. But I talked about him like I talked about any boyfriend. Giggling. Bases. None of them seemed surprised; I got who I wanted usually. Seducing a teacher seemed like a natural progression.

Then one day, it became abuse. Someone else’s word slapped onto my life. I was powerless. She told because, she said, she had to. I couldn’t stop her. I couldn’t save him. I felt like a victim then, but not his victim. Hers.

I always imagine police at his door. The handcuffs. The charges. The rape word. I imagine the wife crying, and the baby crying too. I feel bad that it happened that way, but I didn’t know how to change it. Still don’t.

The first therapist said that my consent was a delusion. She called it lying to myself. She told me I was confused. She said I was raped, but I didn’t feel raped. She said I was wrong. I wanted to punch her in the face. She looked right past me.

I got another therapist.

This one let me say what I wanted. She let me say consensual. She didn’t talk a lot. I paid her to listen because my friends were all tired of listening — they’d already told me so. Listening was her job, so I didn’t feel guilty when I talked the whole 50-minute hour. I always left the money on the side table. It was an economic exchange.

I survived by making it a cocktail party story. I tell it when I’ve had enough to drink that the world gets  fuzzy and warm. I say: Want to hear something crazy? When I was 16, I slept with my married teacher. Oh yeah, he got in trouble eventually. Oh yeah, he’s still around.

I survived by casting myself as Lolita. I told a poison ivy story, an erotica story where the sexy older dad goes down on the babysitter while the kid’s asleep. I survived by making it a positive. I survived by magical thinking: I had all the power. I ruined his life, not the other way around.

I survived by writing. Finally, on the page, I was angry for me. For the first time, I saw what was wrong with 43 year-old him fucking 16 year-old me. For the first time, it wasn’t a love affair. For the first time, I saw power and loss and I was so furious with everyone else for once. Finally it wasn’t my fault. It was my parents. It was my teacher. It was the reporter. It was the social workers. It was the criminal justice system. Everyone had failed me. I deserved better.

And then.

I started writing a whole book. A memoir. I listened to my coach who said that I had to make myself a heroine. I made myself a literary character. I gave myself choices. I let everyone off the hook. I had compassion for my parents, for my teacher, for the reporter and the social workers and the criminal justice system. I forgave them all as I rewrote my book.

I forgave myself the most.

Here’s my advice. When you’re ready, make something. It can be anything at all, just let it be yours. Make art like lemonade. You don’t have to drink it if it’s bitter. It’s the making that’s important, not what you do with it after. You don’t have to share it. You don’t have to keep it to yourself either. But when you can, as soon as you can, make something. Because creation is the opposite of destruction.

(Right on, right on, right on. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Marissa. Cannot wait to read that book.)

Grow your words this summer — upcoming writing opportunities with Writing Ourselves Whole

ripening tomatoes, June 2013What words are ripening in you these days? Want to harvest those phrasings and images onto the page? Come and join us at one of our many writing groups and workshops. Here’s what’s the summer schedule looks like around these parts!

Write Whole-Survivors Write. Open to all survivors of trauma
8 Monday evenings beginning July 8, 2013.
Fee: $350 (ask about scholarship/payment plan, if needed)
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 lgbtq women survivors of sexual trauma
8 Tuesday evenings beginning July 9, 2013.
Fee: $350 (ask about scholarship/payment plan, if needed)
Meets in private workshop space in Oakland, near Lake Merritt
Find community around the complexity of desire, and transform your relationship with your creative self through explicit erotic writing.

Dive Deep: An advanced manuscript/project workgroup
Next series begins begins July 2013
Fee: $200/month (multiple-month commitment)
Limited to 6 members per group; 1 space available
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.

Online writing groups
6-week summer sessions begin July 1, 2013
Fee is $100-150 (sliding scale).
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 survivors of sexual violence. 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, June 15 (waiting list available). Mark your calendars now for the rest of the summer: July 20, August 17, September 21.

Create the space in your summer for the power of your good words! All workshops facilitated by Jen Cross. Email me with any questions, or visit our contact page to register!