Tag Archives: writing workshops

necessary medicine

Good morning! After 7am and the birds are just now waking up in the live oak tree behind the apartment — I guess the rain kept them inside, too. The puppy’s not up yet, either. I think she knows what we’re gonna find when we head out into the city. Today, I’m grateful for the thick grey wet out there. Been up and working since 4:30. It’s almost time for a breakfast break.

Yesterday I had my third workshop in four days; it was a full stretch, starting on Thursday afternoon, and today I’m in a re-centering mode. How do you find your balance?  Continue reading

it adds up

graffiti -- mosaic sunflowerBack to the regular schedule today — good morning out there!

Today the clouds are bulbous and full of pink. What’s the sky like outside your window?

The forecast is for 56 degrees in San Francisco today. I talk to Kathleen in Atlanta, where it’s been in the 90s with tremendous humidity. What can we say about summer except hello?

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I’ve updated the calendar page with the Fall & Winter workshop schedules — let me know if you want to be on the waiting list for those groups!

The upcoming Declaring Our Erotic workshops will be open to everyone — folks of all genders & sexual orientations! I’m considering doing the same with my Winter 2012 Write Whole workshops — opening it up to all survivors of sexual trauma, regardless of sex or gender. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

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I have to get in the shower soon. Yesterday, I spent a couple hours going back through my blog, and read that line quite a few times. I’m gathering up material for a couple of book projects and one article — and I realized just how much writing I’ve got in here. In spite of the days of frustration, in spite of often feeling like I don’t have enough time to write anything, it turns out that in just the year or so that I’ve been blogging approximately 5 days a week, even just for a few minutes, I’ve generated a lot of usable writing.

10 minutes every day for 30 days adds up — for 6 months, adds up. For a year? Yes. Start now. Just keep writing. I know it’s not enough in this moment — but the moments coalesce, and you’re building something, even if, in these 10 minutes, it doesn’t feel like you are.

Take a few minutes right now, and jot down a list of things you want to write about — questions or memories or stories you’re working on, or wishing you were working on. Write the list at the back of your notebook, or in a note on your phone, or into a new document on your computer.

Then let one of those topics choose you, and just devote 10 minutes to it today. Let the words flow. Start with, “What I really want to say about ____ is…”  — don’t stop to edit or process the right place to begin. Editing comes later. Just generate the material.

I’m grateful for you today. I’m grateful for your presence, your process, the creation that you are — and for your words, too, yes, always.

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.

the right time

graffiti of a flower, a bee hovering over, maybe a microphone in the background?Good morning! The birds are quiet today — maybe this blue-grey wakening day is subduing them.

What do things look like outside your window? (That’s a great place to begin writing, btw — if you’re just opening the notebook and wondering what to say. Start anywhere — say anything. All the starts are just opened doors that you can walk through, that your writing can walk you through, to get you where it wants you to go. So take that square of windowpane: what’s on the other side? What exactly do you see, or don’t you see? The descriptions will pull you in to the writing, the process, the flow. Let yourself get pulled, notice what associations, what words or phrases or characters start to bubble up, and let those down onto the page next, then follow them.)

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Tomorrow I head up to Sacramento for the second Reclaiming Our Erotic Story workshop! This is a day-long writing opportunity, a chance to engage in some fun, hot, risky writing with a wonderful community of folks. Light breakfast served, lunch on your own — we get to fill the library of the Sutter Hospital in Sacramento with our sexy and powerful stories! I had a great time with this workshop in January, and I’m so looking forward to returning. (There are still a few spaces available — write to John Crandall if you’d like to join us!)

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Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans.

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now. -Attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; the majority of the quote was actually written by William Hutchinson Murray (1913-1996), in The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

(Does it matter where the words come from, if they move you? When does it matter? Why?)

I was afraid it wasn’t the right time to get a dog. And of course, it wasn’t. We have so much on our plates, our calendars, so much we are trying to do. I have three workshops, maybe four, starting next month, a day-long workshop tomorrow — remember hat June is Pride month and we want to do everything. I’ve been complaining here that an hour writing time in the morning just isn’t enough, I leave the journal frustrated, have to slink to the day job. We didn’t make a good plan. I have classes I want to sign up for, and so much work to do. How could I possibly think about adding a dog? I should have waited until I had more time, until the coast was clear, until we have a perfect plan and budget and know exactly how it’s going to go.

Of course, you know: the coast is never clear. There’s always something else. It’s never the perfect time. We did it anyway — and after a weekend of profound anxiety, it turns out, it was the right time. We’re still adjusting, opening, stretching our lives to accommodate her, like she is stretching to accommodate us — and here’s an amazing thing. So far this week, I’ve had about a half hour at the blog, and it feels like enough. I wake, do my three morning pages in the notebook, and those feel like enough, too. Then I have time with my dog, this new companion, in and around all of that necessary writing time, and the time is enough. A half-hour has expanded, moved, shifted, opened. I can’t explain it, and I’m grateful.

It’s never the right time, and then again, that might mean that it is. What’s the thing you want, that your character wants, that it’s not the right time for? Write it, ok? Give it 10 minutes this morning.

Thanks for how you let your dreams come through you into reality, how you are the body of dreams, how you live. Thanks for your resilient creative self, and for your words.

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.

Writing the Flood on May 21! A monthly writing workshop open to all

Writing the Flood
Open the gates and let your writing voice flow

Third Saturday of every month!
Our next workshop meets May 21, 1-4:30pm
Come write with us!
Follow up with that resolution to return to your words! Writing The Flood is a writing group for anyone looking to prime the writing pump: using the Amherst Writers and Artists method, we will write together in response to exercises designed to get those pens moving, and get onto the page the stories, poems, essays, images and voices that have been stuck inside for too long. This is a time to work on a larger project, get started on new work, play on the page, or write yourself through a block and back into your writing voice.

Unless otherwise noted, this workshop meets on the third Saturday of the month. $50 (sliding scale available). Spaces limited to 12 writers.

No previous writing experience necessary! Workshops held in Berkeley or San Francisco in an accessible space, close to BART and MUNI lines. Pre-registration is required — please write to the address above with questions or to register.

Can’t make it this month? Mark your calendars: The June Writing the Flood will meet on 6/18.

About your facilitator: Jen Cross is a widely published freelance writer. She’s a certified AWA workshop facilitator, has led writing workshops since 2002, and writes with folks about trauma, sexuality, and so much more. More info at writingourselveswhole.org.

5/28 in Sacto: Reclaiming our Erotic Story!

We had so much fun at this workshop back in January, we’re doing it again! Contact John Crandall (info at the end of the post) to register or for more info! -xox, Jen

Reclaiming our Erotic Story:

the Liberatory Potential of  Writing Desire

May 28, 2011, 10:00AM-5:00PM

Sutterwriters Sacramento

Can erotic writing liberate more than our libidos? Does greater comfort with sexual expression lead to greater agency in our communities?

Many of us assume that the erotic is solely the province of the individual, and not the realm of social change or communal liberation – but what happens when we all have wider access to and more comfort with erotic language and sexual expression? The full breadth of our erotic power can challenge what our society teaches us about our sexuality, which is both damning and provocative when it comes to personal expression and human relationships.

I’ve led erotic writing workshops since 2002, and what I’ve found is that writing our desire, in a safe community of engaged and encouraging peer writers, can allow us the space to challenge the negative messages we’ve internalized about sexuality and about our core desires and even our very being. When we bring our longing into the light and find common ground with others, when we risk exposing that which we’ve been trained to be ashamed of, I find that many of us step into a deeply empowered (and more embodied!) self.

In this workshop, we’ll try out some explicit writing, and will consider how empowering a creative engagement with sexual identity, desire, and expression, as well as the ability to write out our fantasies and desire, can affect our intimate relationships, our communities and our work in the world.

The cost for this workshop is $100.  A $25 deposit would secure your place, with the balance due on the day of the class.

To register, contact

John Crandall
Crandall Writers
P.O. Box 22612
Sacramento, California 95822
916-708-9708

john@fireartsofsacramento.com

a loss of familiar and yes to change

one of the small altars in the workshop space, with an image of ganesha, sea shells and stones, dried flowers... and lots of hope

I wanted to talk about transition, how it’s exciting and difficult, simultaneously, in the same brea(d)th. But today the writing is coming hard. There are some times when you know that something big is happening for you underneath all of your surfaces and terrors, under your day-to-day-nesses and the funk of old drama that sits on your shoulders. I am getting ready to move out of two places that have held me and my work and those I love, and that doesn’t necessarily even feel like the biggest transition that this self is undergoing — I mean, I have the sense that more is working it way out from under where I’ve hidden it, where I hid it a long time ago.

Still, all transitions, no matter how small, deserve to be honored; and, too, I think about how I often feel sad during times of change, even if the change is of my calling, even if the change is exactly what I wanted. There’s loss in change, a moving away from what has been, a moving into new. There’s a loss of familiar, a release and a relenquishing.

So I’m thinking right now about what it’s been like to have an office space in downtown San Francisco for the Writing Ourselves Whole workshops. In the summer of 2007, I finally got tired of having to schlep all the workshop materials, all the bits and pieces I’d use to create the space and set the tone for the workshop, all over town to the different spaces I was renting by the hour. I wanted a place that would be devoted to our work, where I could leave all of my materials and where, too, the chairs would stay in the same place: no having to rearrange the room every workshop night. I could set up a small altar space, I could have bookshelves and a small lending library, we could have pictures on the walls. We could have quiet and a solid space to hold our laughter, our rage, our words.

I did not believe that I would be able to afford an office in downtown San Francisco when I first went and looked at spaces there, but we found something that worked — a 350+-sq. ft. office with a partition down the middle, so that there was workshop space on one side and office/snack space on the other, with a sink and great storage space for lots of books. Over the last several years, Fresh! and the workshop participants have helped me to shape the space into something just for Writing Ourselves Whole writers: we found a couch and rug at Ikea, chairs at Uhuru in Oakland, tables at yard sales — now and again I had an excuse to head over to the Ross just across the street, to look for small office things: a tea caddy, for example, was the most recent. Peggy donated an electric teapot to the space, and from a man in the building who was moving to a different space, I got a big desk, coat hanger, cork board, and laser printer. Slowly, organically, the space took on its own shape, felt welcoming and comfortable, and kept within it all the writer’s words — the only groups that ever met in the space have been writing or reading groups.

I decorated with all the postcards that I’d been carrying around with me from space to space — now they could be permanent fixtures. Now they had a home.

In the first year, or just into the second, the space was robbed — when I walked in that night, I saw that the recycling had been overturned, there were papers all over, and little by little, I became aware of what was missing, what had been dug through. I lost a bunch of small items and a lot of confidence; no one could tell me what happened — did I leave the space unlocked? Did someone from maintenance? Whoever it was who ‘broke in’ was likely just walking down the floor, trying all the doors to see which one opened — suite 423 just happened to be the one that night. They took small things that they could sell (that’s become my story), leaving printers behind in favor of a load of small rocks, speakers, the radio-cd player, more…It was supposed to be a workshop night the night that I found that we’d been robbed, and I had to call all the writers and tell them. I felt like all of our space had been violated! One of the writers came on over to the office anyway, to hang out with me, and I’m still so grateful for that. I wasn’t much help to the officer that came down; it had been about a week since I’d been in the space, so I had no idea when the robbery might have occurred.

And that was the ongoing issue: not the robbery or the risk, but the fact that, in between workshops, I wasn’t able to be in the office. I’d created a space that I loved to work in and that was centrally-located and accessible, I couldn’t afford not to have another job in order to keep it — which meant that, over the last several years, I’ve spent remarkably little time there. That’s not what I wanted: I imagined that, eventually, I’d be in the space, working on/with writing ourselves whole full time. I could picture the phone line, more plants, maybe even daytime workshops or one-on-one editing/writing meetings with folks. But that’s not what happened — we’re just not there yet.

Mid-next month, I’ll be officially moving out of this space. I’m not sure where we’ll end up: I’d like something both larger and more economical, with maybe access to a kitchen and bathrooms that don’t require keys. I’m looking forward to the change, to maybe even finding a couple of other workshop facilitators who want to create a space together — and, too, I’m mourning. I’m going to miss that little room, where we’d all be too tight in together during break time if there were more than about five of us in there at a time, bumping elbows, oops, excuse me – and yet, I want to describe for you the miracle of quiet, fierce attention when everyone was writing, and the room filled with taps and scratches, with focus and deep breathing: I’d look up from my own notebook and celebrate what this room, the steel and marble and wood, would continue to hold, even after I cleaned up that night, turned the lights off and checked the lock.

I say thank you to the space every time I leave it — we have created something important together.

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At the beginning of next month, on Feb 5, I’m holding a goodbye worksheet-fundraiser in the space, Writing Transitions. There’s both a morning and an afternoon session — a chance for us to hold gratitude for this space that has held us, and, too, to dive into our own transitions and write into/through some of them. Spaces are beginning to fill, but there are still quite a few openings — I’d love for you to join us!

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A prompt for today: Transition is defined as: passage: the act of passing from one state or place to the next. Sometimes we feel like we’re only supposed to have one sort of feeling about a transition: joy or sorrow. Never both, or more. Jot down some of the transitions you’ve undergone recently (or that your character is moving toward or through) and let yourself choose one to focus on. Take three pages and write into the different feelings you had about that passage. Can you think about what each different emotion tasted or looked like? How is transition similar to transformation? This is just for you — no one else has to see it.

Thank you for your patience with yourself and your processes. Thank you for your powerful words: always.

being willing to fiercely hold power

graffiti: three figures, pulling and pushing together at the bars of a barrier, so they can get out

Only together...

Good morning and happy Friday!  It’s almost time to take a book to the beach and read while leaning back up against a rock, listening to the waves pounding, maybe, too, there’re kids screaming and laughing somewhere, but mostly it’s sea gulls, sea lions, and water. Right? Yes.

So, on Fridays I wanted to write about workshop-business stuff: such a strange thing! I am a Pisces and a survivor and an introvert*, and it’s a strange thing to find myself at the helm (helm?) of something like writing ourselves whole, a strange thing to find myself working to grow a business, an organization, paying attention to things not only like writing exercises and holding workshops and making sure there are enough snacks, but also tax forms and accounting records.  Over these years, I’ve slowly learned (with lots of friend-/love-support, of course!) to trust myself enough to hold writing ourselves whole as it grows beyond just me.

I’ve wanted to write for some time about being both a survivor and someone running/holding an organization, about the ways that I’ve struggled with power.  Holding writing ourselves whole means being willing to fiercely hold power, because I believe in what we do together and how we do it. That’s taken me a long time.

“Power is the ability to take one’s place in whatever discourse is essential to action and the right to have one’s part matter.” -Carolyn Heilbrun, Writing A Woman’s Life.  New York:  Ballantine Books, 1988, p. 18.

I’ve had to learn about owning my power in a positive and empowering way. For a long time, I didn’t want anything to do with power: to me, power equaled abuse. But we are all imbued with power, we have deep knowledge and skills to share, information and creativity to be shared and learned from. Power in and of itself is not abuse. The question is what we do with our power: Do we use it to attempt to control other people, or do we stand up in it, understanding that our power is our strength to speak out, to work with others to effect change, to sensitively hold space; do we behave with blind entitlement or do we hold ourselves accountable, ask others to hold us accountable, believing ourselves to be entitled to respect when we give respect, entitled to generosity when we are generous, entitled to kindness and space to offer our wisdom.

It’s early and I’m not writing about this the way that I want. Here’s something I wrote back in the beginning, about my struggle with power:

The erotic writing groups that I facilitate are not therapy groups. They are non-clinical TLA writing groups, in which I, as facilitator, am also a participant. This is a role that requires a good deal of ongoing negotiation and soul-searching for me: I have responsibility for keeping the group flowing and structured, yet I abdicated the role of “leader.” Together, we who participate in these groups engage in the creation of a safe space that allows for risk, performance and play. As a participant, I struggle to make clear for the rest of the participants: I will take the same risks you will. I will trust you to cherish what of myself I offer, and I will be open to your feedback.  I have something at stake here, personally, just as you do. This, in my experience, allows for a leveling of the power in the room–which is transformative in itself.  It is also fraught with its own difficulties.

I have, since, reconsidered this abdication, have stepped up to more fully meet the role of facilitator, which means leading sometimes, holding us all our agreements, naming things that need to change in order for all to be held, and being present with folks who are testing the limits of our method or who seem to want something different from the group.  The struggle for me has been wanting always to be different from the therapist group facilitator, first, because I’m not a therapist, and second, because I came into this work with such anger, still, at therapists and their power/impotence, given what my stepfather was able to do as a therapist in his community back home. Yes, I washed a whole community with his actions — I’m still undoing that in myself. Now my sister is a therapist, and so we can have different conversations about holding power, about being accountable and about boundaries and engaging in the holding of spaces where we and others can risk, together, and also find ourselves in safety and change.

There’s so much more to say about power (and em-power-ment), but I’ll stop here for now.  Thanks for your fierce work, your extraordinary power, the way you’re living your life like it’s golden

* Folks tend not to believe me when I say I’m an introvert, because I can be outspoken, because I perform publicly, because I can be big and loud and gregarious and effusive. None of these negate the possibility of introversion, however: I’m someone who likes a lot of time alone, and for whom big crowds can be draining — I like to replenish with time alone after being with large amounts of people (c.f., having to take last Saturday morning to myself after being at the Femme Conference on Friday, and with people all the rest of the week); I like to call it being on people-overload. It isn’t about not loving people, but about how I get fed: I get fed/replenished after interactions with just one person or small groups, and with time alone.  Then I can do big groups again. I resonate with this definition: “Extraverts feel an increase of perceived energy when interacting with a large group of people, but a decrease of energy when left alone. Conversely, introverts feel an increase of energy when alone, but a decrease of energy when surrounded by a large group of people.”

sometimes professional isn’t what you need

I dreamed my sister had a black dog, like the one we had when we were younger, Katja.  I dreamed someone was getting married, a thin blonde white woman, she was in a stunning, cinched dress, material clinging and then cascading, her hair up in long tight ringlets, she was frustrated with how tight they still were, she wanted them to loosen, she bounded up to the window, the  mirror, she bounded up and then kept flipping her head over and back up,  over and back up, then she would shake her head in the mirror, she wanted the curls to come loose, not look so tight and obvious.  All the women around her wanted to help, but she was a whirlwind of energy all alone in the middle.  There was more to the dream.  Sarah wanted the dog to come sit with her — mom was there, too.  We were all staying someplace, like guests at a hotel or a rented house or someplace not our home.

I dreamed of a gathering of transfolks, like a community center sort of meeting, and Fresh and I were rushing through for something, we stopped to get water, during the meeting, and maybe Fresh had to check in with someone, and I was alone, the only cis person with there I think, during the drop in casual support space, and I was talking about how going to wedding is so frustrating because it’s broken down, split into genders, just 2, and I wanted that to change, to open.

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My sister goes to the gym three days a week.  I think, for me, there would be something about having the motivating of the presence of other people — it’s a reason that people come to the writing workshops.  Someone said on Saturday, I’m a lazy writer. She needed to be around other people to motivate her.  Is it laziness, though? Or is it just the way one works best?  I’m not motivated to exercise unless I do it in the service of some other task — my exercise is walking.  I walk the almost-a-mile from the bus to work, and always take the 5 flights of stairs once I get there — only taking the elevator when I’m with someone else who needs to. It’s not enough, and by enough I just mean wanting to figure out how to feel fully fine in my skin.  I understand that’s not just exercise, it’s deeper work, too, but there’s the way that I want to know that my body and me are in sync, we speak the same language, we’re wrangling with aches and losses, we stretch loose what’s clotting us, we find a way through in sweat  and soreness to a looser, softer other side.

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I had the second Writing the Flood workshop on Saturday, and have a Write Whole workshop tonight, then the first MedEd writers meeting on Thursday (for Medical Education staff at UCSF — very excited about this one!  We’re working with writing practice as professional development).

What can I say about the Saturday workshop? It was gorgeous — we had nine writers, all different (of course!), each powerful and strong. A couple of the exercises:

  • write about an animal you had a strong (whether positive or negative) relationship with (thanks to Chris DeLorenzo for that one);
  • pull a quote and write in response. We had quotes like, “Long ago I was wounded” (Louise Glück);  “If I had no memory / I would say this is perfect” (Jane Rohrer); and “You were the gentle one (Pat Schneider).

This is what I wrote in response to that last exercise,  my quote was “half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so that the other half may reach you” (Kahlil Gibran)”

Push down hard into the body and lift up.  Take an angry weight and sink whole into it, lift the trauma into morning.  This is  record of tomorrow.  This is a weighing for yesterday’s distance.  This is a stripping down the bed, burning the sheets, taking flight.  This is a single percolation, the bubble hollow and brown, rising shallow to the surface and turning.  This is singing what used to be forgotten. This is baking the small brownies.  This is feathering the wait with your anger.  This is my long walk from the bank, $15 in my back pocket, feet hard on the cement sidewalk, backpack too heavy on my sunburnt shoulder. This is why you should never have answered. This is all of your questions.  This is the cramps making bloodstains of my hours. This is telling the phone to go quiet.  This is one more inkstained Saturday. This is what I do with all my time.

Outside, the birds are all still quiet, it’s that early, dark staining still the new day’s sky. You are snoring as I lift myself up into the day.  Our house is so old it doesn’t even creak –it sits quiet around my skin, gone cold now to gooseflesh as I move from bedsheets to hallway to kitchen, where I set the coffee going.  I light a candle, and open my notebook, I put myself in front of the page.  These are the only answers I have, pen moving across the paper, these questions, these dreams and resiliencies.  When the whole world is quiet around me, outside cats even sleeping, then I can crumble apart. I can break open, then in that hour. I can see what I am made of.

(Can’t wait for the August Writing the Flood meeting, 8/21, 1;4:30!)

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I want to say something about being with my sister, about how simple and straightforward the weekend seemed and how tired we both were after.  I mean it was a weekend of late nights, of being up all of us talking, and so of course we were tired.  but there’s more there.  Whenever we are together we have more present, a world of history there in its invisibility, how do I want to say this?

When you’re around us you’re in the presence of something enormous.  It’s not just being in the presence of survival, it’s something fiercer, something more carnivorous, or more feral.  Feral.  Something wild.  Something neither of us can control. On the surface we look like normal, middleclass white women, we look like we have good teeth and know how to smile and be polite and kind and gentle, we look like you might be safe with us.  You don’t know what’s about to implode every moment when we are together, near each other, in the same physical space.  You don’t know what’s alive and writhing beneath the surface.  You can’t see it.  Maybe you can feel something throbby and angry and awake, something chaotic, some energy that nags at your quiet places, something that keeps your third eye open and wary, something that starts looking for escape routes.  When I started thinking about this writing, what I wanted to get across was how much of an honor it should be for anyone, you should now what an honor it is to be around us, you should know how much we were never supposed to be together and safe together again, you should know what we have had to crawl through and emerge bleeding from just to sit in the same room together and look normal.  And look normal. This is not a professional blog post, but sometimes professional isn’t what you need.