“don’t go back to sleep” (Rumi)

multi-colored graffiti image of a whirling dervish, skirts flying out, head tilted to one side, arms outstretched, eyes closed

Whirling Dervish in front of a house in Istanbul, Turkey. Click the image to see more of nassergazi's photos...

Happy Friday! My sense of this week is all wonky, because I’ve been at my day job at the end of the week instead of at the beginning — it feels like Wednesday to me, and I have a little distance from the fact that my fall workshops begin in just a few days!


Last night we watched a movie, RagTag, about boys who loved each other and who met again as adult men and had to negotiate their desire for each other. Black men in England–one Jamaican, one Nigerian–and film dealt with the hostility between those communities, the bible-based homophobia, the racism they faced. A terribly acted film, but intimate and so important, and I’m glad we got to see it. Here was this movie about boys becoming men, boys loving each other for a lifetime, getting harassed but not beaten, not shot or killed. Having a happy ending. I needed that fantasy love story yesterday, and I need it again today.

Still sitting heart-heavy with all the boys who have died recently, and all the so many more kids who are horrified to have to wake up today and live their same lives.


I picked up a GRE book yesterday: I’m thinking about PhD programs. I was scanning the disciplines again, looking at programs at Berkeley, at Stanford, at CIIS, at USF, at SF State, trying to figure out where my work fits, and who might accept my MA from Goddard. The perfect place of course would be the History of Consciousness program at Santa Cruz, but they’re not taking applications right now.

It could fall into psychology, there are PsyD programs, but that’s a clinical psychology program for work I’m explicitly specifying as non-clinical. And then sociology, anthropology: the study of humans, the study of how we engage in groups, in society: I could fit my work into those spaces, call it I’m interested in how we treat each other and how we use creativity to surviveĀ  trauma, how a creative practice can be explicitly engaged to alter how we know ourselves after trauma, how we learn and support one another in groups. Then I looked at the education programs and let a new framing fall into place: could this work fall here?

What’s the study I’m talking about? How trauma affects, both constricts and opens, our understanding of ourselves, and how creative engagement (both individually and in community) can help us to change, broaden, expand, help us again to complicate the way we know our selves. I want to know how the brain works after trauma, how we learn after trauma, and how creative process (and by that I mean creative writing) affects the ways our brains work, our sense of ourselves and others, our internal elasticity, maybe.

Trauma studies, creativity, resilience, writing, community: These are the main pieces; what are the research questions? Why can a writing practice in community make a difference for us? I want to get inside the way that AWA works and understand it better. I want to know how we come to understand ourselves through language (maybe, too, through story), how trauma affects that understanding (our stories) and our capacity for learning, and how it is that a creative, language-based process can alter and expand our sense of our own possibilities, our own boundaries, and those of others.

Do I want to talk about sexuality this time as well? I will be, of course, because the process, this creative process, is inherently an erotic one, and so there’s the piece of the erotics of change, of healing and wellness, of embodiment and the power there.

I don’t want to put this work under psychology, because I think it pushes too hard toward the clinical, and I don’t want to engage in clinical work. This is more social transformation, community transformation, education work, how we understand ourselves and what we think is possible, and how much of that happens through the words, the language, we have for ourselves and for our communities. I need that separation from this as therapy (TLA isn’t the same as therapy). Major changes happen for folks in school, in the classroom, and we don’t call it therapy. We call it transformation, we call it learning, we call that process healing sometimes, but we know the difference (well, don’t we?) between education and therapy.


What about a prompt for a Friday? One of the folks at the Power of Words conference introduced me to this Rumi poem. I’ll invite you to read it, notice what stays with you, what catches your writers ear, what images or associations arise for you as you’re reading — let your writing begin with whatever comes up for you as you read. You might respond to the poem, you might start with a phrase in the poem itself — give yourself 10 minutes, following your writing wherever it seems to want to go:

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

From Essential Rumi

by Coleman Barks

Thank you for being here today, for reading and wondering, for the words that shape you, for the words you use to shape yourself and the spaces between the words that hold so much possibility…

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