Gratitude is a funny, complicated, and sometimes difficult thing.
Thanksgiving can be a challenge for many reasons (not least of which the fact that the story many of us are told about the holiday — that it’s to honor the native peoples of the Americas, who kept the pilgrims/first colonizers from starving to death after settling here — wildly sanitizes and white-washes the true history of European peoples on this continent).
We are told this is a day to be with family– the message is everywhere around us, on television, on social media. But what happens when time with family is toxic for us, or harmful, or just leaves us feeling depressed and sad?
The birds are already awake this morning before I get to the keyboard. I had a whole plan for last night — celebration at the final meeting of this fall’s Fearless Words group, hustle home, and head out to Brothers & Sisters to dance hard enough to find my gratitude, to sweat out the toxins, to touch and grab hold of my joy. But when I made it home I was just too tired to go back out into the world; several nights of not enough sleep finally caught up with me. And how could I drive through or around the protests in downtown Oakland in order to go dancing of all things. It felt like crossing a picket line. So instead I obsessively updated my twitter feed, trying to follow what was happening, and ended up crashing on the couch. Not exactly the celebratory evening I’d had in mind, but this 42 year old body doesn’t rally the way it did when I was 22, even though I don’t like dancing any less now — it’s still one of the very small handful of healing practices that have kept me going.
Today I am thinking about the complexity of gratitude. All over America, we’re supposed to be grateful today — we have a national holiday set aside to be thankful for all that we have. It’s meant to be a time for gathering with family, connecting with our beloveds — no one is supposed to be alone on family (even if they’d prefer to be). Meanwhile, we are surrounded by advertisements for so-called Black Friday sales, enticing us into believing that we do not have enough, that we need to buy more, proving the lie of this day of gratitude practice, at least culturally. On this day when we’re supposed to be jubilantly grateful for home and hearth, kith and kin, we have a nation rising up in grief and rage. Many, many people will not be safe today with the people who are supposed to be their safest havens — many of us will grieve the families we ought to have had, the safe hands and hearts we ought to have been surrounded by. This is the beginning of the most complicated time of the year for so many of us.
There’s a poem I like to hand out every November — if you’re in a workshop with me, you’ve probably seen it. It’s W.S. Merwin’s “Thanks,” written in 1927, and it goes like this: Continue reading
Good morning, beautiful writers. The sun has just crept itself up over the Oakland hills, and is spilling bold and bright right into my eyes. How is this Monday greeting you?
So, this is Thanksgiving week here in the US. This Thursday is Thanksgiving, that celebration of consumption, that re-memorying of our national origins. Many of us will be with family, and it will be a struggle. Many of us will not be with family, and that will also be a struggle. Many of us will want more connection, more intimacy, more honesty. Some of us will be right where we want to be. And many of us will, in spite of this national holiday’s ostensible and onerous origins, use this time for reflection and gratitude practice.
There have been years when I raged at anyone who asked me to be grateful, who invited me to remember that in spite of my oppression, I had plenty to be thankful for. Fuck you, I thought. I spent ten years having to lie beneath the hands and body of a man who threatened to kill everyone I loved if I didn’t do what he wanted, a man who brainwashed my whole family, and stole from me both my adolescence and my sexuality. Don’t tell me to be thankful. I am not grateful. I resisted the relentlessly cheerful aspect of survivor culture that wanted me to only focus on the positive. When I heard leaders in the movement telling me that I had to couch all my thoughts in positive terms lest I draw negativity to myself, I simply heard them engaging in victim-blaming; I also heard the sort of brainwashing language that my stepfather used, claiming even my thoughts, and the structure of my thoughts, as his own to manipulate.
Good morning good morning. This morning I was up early, at quarter to five, and managed to actually pull my body from the bed in order to write. Yesterday, too. Maybe I am entering a new (old) creative circadian rhythm. Time will tell.
This morning I am feeling deep and quiet with a kind of appreciation that maybe I should better call reverence. I want us to celebrate anyone who is doing any work to connect to the real and authentic heart of their sex, their desire, their erotic self. We as a culture do not encourage this kind of work, and we don’t make space for it. We want sex to be business or irony or easy; we don’t have a lot of room for real sex.
If you know anyone doing this sort of work for themselves — for example, reconnecting to a traumatized sexuality, taking steps to manifest a long hidden or silenced desire, or trying something that they’ve always wanted to try but have been deeply afraid of, saying what they really want, knowing what they really want, saying yes as well as no, reembodying during sex, allowing themselves to have a body during sex — I want you to celebrate them. If you are doing this work, I want you to celebrate yourself. This labor is deeply powerful — it transforms our relationship to our whole lives, not just to our sex lives — and it is so often unwitnessed and unreverenced.
Good morning this morning. I’ve got a green Earl Grey tea this morning, which is nice and odd. I woke up from a difficult dream that involved my mom, and I only captured the very end of it, where I was in a bed making, spelling out the word AMAZING using my finger dipped in frosting and letting the letters dry on some hard surface. I was looking for housing in Crete, Nebr.
How have your dreams brought you into this day?
This morning I am thinking about other mothers, about teachers, about who we learn from when our parents aren’t able to be the ones who give us the lessons we need to move into and through life.
Anne Lamott talks about this in her book, Traveling Mercies. She describes the women who weren’t her own mother, mothers of friends, who took her in, who told her she was beautiful, who brought her through girlhood and womanhood with a steadfastness and encouragement, people you felt accountable to, whose opinion mattered to you, even when you were going to go ahead and fuck up anyway.
I am thinking about who we learn from.
good morning and happy Wednesday — what’s rustling around under the skin of your morning dreams today?
I’m thinking these days about what it takes for us to be comfortable in our skin, to be comfortable in our selves. There have been years when I felt like I would never be ok, in the world, just as I am, that I’d always be performing some version of myself in order just to engage with other human beings. Does that make sense? But I just came from the 2012 Femme Conference, where I had a very different experience of girlness/femaleness, community, and ease.
good morning good morning! Oh, it’s late here — I set the alarm for 4:30, but when the puppy woke me up after 6, I looked over to see that perhaps that alarm had gone off, but my sleeping self had taken no notice whatsoever. After a full (and mostly offline) weekend, I guess my body took what she needed.
~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~
Write Whole begins again this evening, and April’s Writing the Flood is this weekend (join us!) — lots more coming up, too, including a new daily blog project for May, which I’m very excited and a little nervous about! It’s going to be kind of like NaNoBloMo, with a twist.
Good morning — how is this morning treating you so far? Here it’s rainy and it took me a long, long time to wake up; I think I hit snooze about 20 times.
~~ ~~ ~~ ~~
What’s going on this morning? I can’t remember my dreams — in the dream I wish I’d had, my grandmother, one of them, or maybe both, came to me. we were sitting in a city park, on a dry bench, and they were holding hands. They looked like I remembered them, washed grey permanents, slightly bent bodies, deeply kind faces, my father’s mother’s face a little more open than my mother’s mother’s face, but still both so very much there. They pat the space between them, want me to sit down there. They tell me things I need to hear, they tell me about the time when I was gone, the time when their families were missing two grandchildren — this is what the holidays were like, they say, this is what it felt like to miss you and your sister. The space didn’t fill in around you, they say, there was just a hole. We didn’t talk about it much, but we all knew it was there.The wind blew against our faces, gentle, and somehow they were sitting next to each other and also around me.The air was blue, fresh, the sky was open. There were other people, far away, walking. My grandmothers explained about their lives, they told me how to go forward in my own. They opened their hands and let me put mine there, they let me see how our hands are so much the same. You see, they said to me, look at our hands. You belong to us. You’re home here.
love this graffiti of the Icarus Project logo -- check them out, if you don't yet know their work: http://theicarusproject.net/
It’s wet and grey here, and I’ve been listening to the foghorns all morning. What’s it like where you are?
I am typing with all the fingers of my left hand and just three on my right — I broke a glass this weekend, cut my hand, and now my ring finger is splinted up and my hand is wrapped in gauze. This weekend, during our last Writing the Flood at the Flood Building, I managed to write, though slower than I usually do, with just those 3 fingers. The words were fainter on the page maybe, but still went deep.
We have just about completely moved out of Suite 423 — many big thanks and lots of love to Fresh! White, Renee Garcia, Lou Vaile, Alex Cafarelli, and Cayenne Woods, who made the move happen! With my right hand effectively out of commission, I couldn’t do much more than some packing and pushing the dolly. Thank you so much for the help!