Ok — so I found out yesterday that writing ourselves whole didn’t get a grant from Horizons that we applied for. Today I’m disappointed but not knocked down — could it have something to do with not feeling so isolated, not so alone in the work? I’m grateful, today, for all the folks I get to work with in building writing ourselves whole to something sustainable and stronger.
Here’s exciting news — last night we ate the first of our own tomatoes with our dinner. Deep orange like a peach but with tomato flesh, and still warm from the vine. The first my-home-grown tomato I’ve had since I lived in Maine: I mixed it in with the guacamole, and it was so good.
Today’s a VozSutra day: a practice of voice day. I’ve got a little bit for writing time, then I need to head into town and be at the office for a bit before the MedEd writers workshop at UCSF. After the afternoon’s work, the Mr. and I might even get to spend some time at the ocean. Maybe I should wear my bathing suit under the work clothes; it’s supposed to be hot again today.
Did you do some thinking yesterday about what you’d write if you didn’t have to be good? What did you come up with? I love the writing that comes up in response to Mary Oliver’s poem — I imagine any writing you did in response to this prompt was risky and challenging. Thank you for that!
Last night I spent quite awhile editing the piece I’d workshopped earlier this summer at the Writing as a Healing Art conference. The conference organizers have joined with the folks at University of California Press, and UCP is putting out a volume of the writing produced or workshopped during the conference. The piece I submitted is fiction, drawn heavily from my own life, and focuses on two sisters who experience awful sexual trauma and psychological manipulation and control at the hands of their mother’s second husband — right now it’s a short piece, 30 pages or so, and I’ve excerpted 6 to submit. I have an idea of the longer work, how it could come together into a book. It’s also a terribly hard story for me to write, and so I’ll get a little bit out (3 or 7 or 12 pages) and then I’m done with it for 6 months or a year, til I’m ready to write the next part.
I want to show how folks experience trauma change from the people they were Before to the people they were After, Later. I want to capture that moment of transition, transformation — the moments of decision: how is it that, just yesterday, it wouldn’t have been possible for me to do or say this thing, but today it’s become a part of my normal?
It’s easy to pathologize victims of trauma (and it’s easy because it’s safer for the pathologizers, for the rest of society — if we make this an individual’s problem, then we don’t have to deal with the wider ramifications of power and control or hierarchy or oppression). It’s easy to paste PTSD over someone’s face and then go to work trying to resituate that person to “normalcy” — which means getting that person to a place where they can be a ‘contributing member’ of our capitalist society (and/or back to the front, if we’re talking about the military*).
What I’ve wanted for some time is to be able to write the story of a long-term trauma, which involves both decisions and actions on the part of the perpetrator, and decisions and actions on the part of those being traumatized — not decisions to be abused, but decisions around survival, strategizings and navigations from moment to moment, day to day. Over time, those strategizings change, because the ground is always moving: the perpetrator is never satisfied with what he’s already been able to do, he wants to do something more. Suddenly you’re deciding, deciding, not what you want to do with your friends after school but whether today is a good day to ‘let’ the person abusing you do this or that, or whether you think can put it off for one more day. Who have you become, to be thinking about this? How did you get to this place?
Maybe more selfishly, I want you to know what that experience is like, that going from who you thought you were going to become to someone your earlier self would never, never recognize as you. I don’t like to be alone here.
Stay hydrated today — it’s supposed to be hot hot again. Be easy with you today, and I’ll work to do the same. Thanks so much for all the incredible work you do… whatever you’re doing to be you: thank you.
*This is a side note, but I want to try to write it: I read earlier this week about research going on at th UCSF VA with military folks to try and figure out how to prevent PTSD. The more I think about this, the more terrifying it is: PTSD is a healthy-brain’s response to horror and trauma. A military that has been trained out of the capacity to respond with horror to war is more frightening than I have words for. PTSD is an awful, awful thing to have to deal with, and the best way to prevent it in the military is not to send people to war. In my estimation, the best way to prevent PTSD is not to torture, brutalize, traumatize, harm others: not children, not intimate partners, not friends, not people you think have less power than you, not ‘enemies.’