Good morning good morning — here I am again, after just 10 hours. So nice to feel that connectedness and thread. This morning’s tea is jasmine green & peppermint — how are you waking up today?
After yesterday’s post, I made sure to do some notebook writing this morning before getting into the blog. There’s so much erupting for me right now, and instead of getting swept away moment to moment, I want to take that breathing time on the page, collect what’s been happening, how I feel about it, churn it around, find the stories, the threads, the feelings.
Are you nanowrimo-ing? Congratulations for entering your second week!
The BlogHer nablopomo prompts are back for the week. Today’s is a guest prompt from Ricki Lake. If this were 1994, back when I was watching her talk show regularly, the prompt might have been something charged and political, like, do you believe bisexual people exist? or how many sexual partners do you think someone can have before they have to start informing their lovers about the existence of the others?
Ricki’s prompt is this: Making family time is important to me. How do you balance your children, relationship, and work life?
At first I’m disappointed when I read that this is a quote from Ricki Lake — so mainstream. But then, as I’m writing about her previous work and thinking about the political nature of her topics, I think about how the issue of balance and self care is political and charged, for all of us, and differently, still, for many women.
I stop typing, look at the screen, think about the prompt. Here’s the the truth, and if you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you might not be surprised at this answer: I haven’t been doing balance very well, not for a long time. I tend to want to be in an all or nothing kind of place, let me give everything to the relationship, everything to the writing, everything to the workshops. Similar to the part where I procrastinate until the very edge of a deadline, then throw everything aside to focus on that one project. Working that way, I can focus, I can justify focusing, I can justify not multitasking, I can justify putting all of my awareness in one place for a period of time, until that work is done.
There’s something to be said about that kind of practice, and not all of what could be said is bad or negative. We live in a society that in particular expects women to be available for caretaking and other tasks — I certainly didn’t escape that training. My subconscious figured out a way to force me to dive deep into something (even alongside thick panic) without worrying about what other people needed from me in that moment.
But, of course, running from panic to panic, not allowing for sustained engagement with anything in between (because, of course, once the panic is over, i have to deal with everything I postponed and ignored during that time): exhausting. So I’ve hit the wall, repeatedly, over the last several years, and have slowly been pingponging myself toward a different relationship with balance — out of sheer necessity: my body just won’t let me do the constant racing anymore. Hitting the wall is difficult; it hurts, and I’m washed over with shame every time. I’m up against another wall now, having to tell hard truths about what I need, and I hate it, and it’s good.
Balance with lifework and art and partner? Hasn’t happened. That’s been another place of new learning. My background — my stepfather, let’s be honest, and mother, too, trained me that my job in a relationship was to take care of someone else’s needs, period. How I’ve dealt with that is to swing (I’m good at those extremes, and swinging at least provides one with a sense of free-falling sometimes) between only focusing on the other person (whatever I need must be selfish and demanding), and then only focusing on what I needed (fuck them if they don’t understand). Tends to build up a lot of resentment on all sides. Not optimal, but somehow, sustainable!
I am not good at balance; it’s not familiar to me, doesn’t feel like home. Extremes, though, crisis: that’s where I come alive, all these old skills get awakened and can be of use. Then we get through the crisis, and I’m sick with exhaustion and resentment, and have had few tools for recovery.
How long can we go with these old practices and coping mechanisms before we find our way into something more healthy, something better for our art and love and community? The truth is that we can go a lifetime not finding out way to healthy practice, not believing that we deserve it, not believing that we can make the time. In Trauma Stewardship, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky also calls out the nonprofit and activist/social change communities around a culture of crisis, setting up a situation that valorizes (as strong, amazing, tough, truly dedicated) the folks who give everything to the cause, shaming (as weak) those who want or need to take care of themselves.
In radical and activist and artist communities these days, there’s a lot of conversation around self-care, sustainable practice — how do we do the work of social engagement and change without burning ourselves out immediately? How do we let ourselves be in it, in this life, in these bodies, in these relationships, fully and for the long haul? How do we let ourselves learn healthy and sustainable intimate partnerships? How do we let ourselves down off the adrenaline rush of that swinging between extremes?
I don’t have any answers right now. At this moment, I have the work of honesty, saying it, saying what we need and long for, even when we think it’s impossible, even when we think it will break everything. It might. For me it is. We need to tell our truths anyway. We need to allow space for those around us to tell and live into their truths, too, so that we can move from singing about freedom back into flight, so that we can move together into flight.
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Where are the places that you (or your character) are tame? Where and how do you/then want to fly? Give yourself 10 minutes, at least, with this today — and let your writing take you someplace surprising.Thank you for your songs, all of them, the ones in your bones and blood, the ones in your visible and invisible scars, the ones you sing in resentment and the ones you sing in joy. Thank you for your vibratory resilience. Thank you for your words.