what are your nonnegotiables?

graffiti of two people slumped, a little dazed, on the ground, while above them, a series of dancers cavort and undulateGood morning good morning — I’m here in my small writing room, with the stars casting their little light through the just-turned-open blinds in the living room behind me. All the spaces are quiet today, except my shoulders and lower back, which are singing songs of aches and waking and would like to stretch some more. Are there songs rising from places in your skin today?

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Quick update: August’s Writing the Flood meets this weekend, Saturday, August 11. Next month we’ll be back to our regular, third-Saturday-of-the-month schedule.

Also, don’t forget about the master class I’m teaching at the end of this month: Embodied Words: Writing Your Body’s Narratives, offered through Memoir Journal’s Workshop series. Saturday, August 25, 9am-5pm, at ArtJam in Berkeley. Visit http://www.memoirjournal.net/events/master-class-embodied-words-writing-your-bodys-narratives/ for more information or to register!

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In a letter I received this month (have I written here about this letter-writing that I’ve reengaged in this year? A little bit — but we have to talk more about that), a friend talks about determining what her nonnegotiables are — in relationships, in friendships, in work — and about learning from and using the past, in an intentional way, to allow herself to craft a now-life that truly works for the deep her in this present, that will carry her into her brilliant next, her whole genius, her full blossoming possibility.

What an idea, right? It occurred to me that I think I’ve never slowed down enough in my life, and especially at moments of transition, to allow for this kind of reflection and pulling forward: what worked, what didn’t work, about what you’ve just gone through, Jen? What do you want to continue or build on? What do you want to release with gratitude and love and appreciation? Sure, I journal about everything — but less often with this quality of intent. In the past, my journaling, my writing voice overall, has had a kind of relentless forward motion, a breathlessness, an urgency — there’s nothing bad about this, and I’m noticing now a new opening, a sense that it’s ok to slow down and reflect, to sink into hard questions without losing energy or passion or drive.

What does this mean, a nonnegotiable? II wrote about that some this morning, in my morning pages: how do we know what our nonnegotiables are? How do we honor those, give them space to speak, lead them to understand that they can trust us to recognize and hold them sacred? Our nonnegotiables are our bottom lines, our boundaries, our deep needs. For instance: I need space to write, every day: that’s nonnegotiable for me (or ought to be; let’s not pretend that I haven’t negotiated it away). Not that I do write every single day, but when I’m living in a situation where it wouldn’t be possible for me to do so, I start to dissassemble, shut down, disconnect. I am in my genius most fully at the times when I am writing daily.

There’s a place in me that feels selfish calling anything nonnegotiable — that wants to bend around everything, wants to meet everyone else where they are at and not expect the same from others towards me. I notice some discomfort, because, of course, nonnegotiable is a boundary. It’s a line in the sand of me, it’s an expression of need and a place I expect respect.

As a survivor, of course, I learned to ignore/quiet/silence those nonnegotiables — because they were, in fact, negotiable during the time I was being harmed. Negotiable isn’t exactly true, is it? They were walked over. Not negotiated. Dismissed, just as I was. And these days, it’s much more likely that I will walk over my own ostensible-nonnegotiables, in order to avoid upsetting someone else — let me do it before they do, that’s been my motto. Possibly not the best one to grow a nurturing life, though.

So this is an exercise in self-trust, self-healing, self-listening and -awareness, this asking my inside self: What do you most need? What if I told you we were going to pay attention now, that we’re going to structure this creative life based on what you tell me?

And then, of course, the important thing is to pay attention and act on what we hear. This becomes another practice. What a gift, to get to reach the place in our lives where we can honor ourselves again.

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Want to write a bit today about your own nonnegotiables? What are the bottom lines for your best and most brilliant creative life? Or what are your character’s nonnegotiables — what do they need to thrive at work or in love or in friendship or at home? What does it look like when you or they ignore these nonnegotiables, or others ignore them? Give yourself fifteen minutes with the word nonnegotiable — notice whatever comes!

Feel welcome to share your responses here at the blog, or on Facebook! The creative community here is BRILLIANT and I’d love for you all to know each other’s voices more…

Thank you for all the ways you are allowing yourself to know yourself, to be present with your own idiosyncrasies and differences, particular needs and specific desires. Thank you for the ways you feed yourself and others. Thank you for your good words.