It’s a Monday, and I have so much gratitude today: a weekend of connection, reconnection, rest, and work. Yesterday’s workshop with Sassafras, Queers Surviving: Telling our whole stories, was a powerful gathering of writers, and some good pieces got begun, I think. And the Kicked Out reading on Saturday opened me, again, to the power of working with our stories: no one else is going to tell them for us, and if they do, they’ll either get them wrong (and/) or use them against us. (Who said that first? It wasn’t me…)
And then some good, strong Inverness time with the Mr. and my heart, some fall planning, and hours of just-reading time. Whew. Thank you.
I’ve got a prompt for you, today, for the folks at yesterday’s workshop and everyone: this is one I offered at the Write Whole Monday night workshop a couple weeks ago: create two lists by drawing a line, horizontally, down the middle of your page. At the top of the first list (either side), title it Things I Dreamed (or Things She Dreamed, Things He Dreamed, Things You …). Then spend about five minutes, writing down your dreams, either from last year, five years ago, 20 years ago… what did you/your character imagine/dream of/hope for?
Then, give yourself five minutes for the next list: Things I/She/He/You Didn’t Dream. What didn’t you imagine (again, either just a few months ago, a few years ago, when you were a teenager or a child)? What didn’t you dream of?
Then take a minute or so to look over the lists, noticing which items you put there call to you or are drawing your writer’s attention. You might move back and forth between the things dreamed about and the things not dreamed about, if you want.
Here’s my write from that prompt:
She didn’t dream about getting free. The tenor was like that. This was After. Before, she’d dreamed about being an author, and that was nebulous, kind of involving books and words and how someone had to put strings of the latter together to create the former, and actually got paid to do it — and about being a marine biologist and this involved way more marine than biology, this ream — more, she thought about how being a marine biologist meant she could be under water all the time.
She spent hours making up stories, endless soap operas that involved teenagers and unrequited love and missed opportunities and brutal girls and sensitive deceived boys with she herself at the center of it all, of course, like Jane Eyre or something, pretty, tight lipped, understanding, and, eventually, blissfully, perfectly understood, requited —
but she never dreamed of getting free, being away from the man her mother had married. She didn’t imagine a part of a time in her life when he wasn’t holding some essential part of her in his hands, her breath or breasts or heartbeat — when did she come to understand that going far away to college wouldn’t make any difference, that distance wouldn’t stop him, that she wouldn’t be free of him?
This isn’t a remembering that happens easy: it requires that she climb back into the brain that lived both under his control and outside it, requires that she push her fingers back into the body that couldn’t ever say no.
This isn’t the story I want to tell. What I want to talk about is the way that she still dreamed about tomorrow — not the future: just tomorrow. Just the fact that another day was coming, no matter how bleak and painful and ridiculous the one she was living, still she held some part of herself open for the day that was coming. That’s the part that pulled her through. It didn’t dream. It just attended to facts. No matter how awful this minute, the second hand on the clock on the side board or bed stand or wall is going to keep on moving. He can’t stop time. He may be able to do everything else, but he can’t stop time. No matter how bad his badgering or beating, and the badgering was always worse, and no matter how long, eventually, it would stop. These weren’t dreams. These were facts. The sun would come up and she’d have to get dressed for school.
This is where she learned about escape as fragmentary, as both momentary and whole. This is when she let go of dreaming and held on to the second hand with everything.
Thank you for being there, for reading, and for writing — it’s big work that you’re doing. Be easy with yourself this week!