It’s a Tuesday; I did my morning write in my notebook this morning, which felt very good — me, the candle, the pen, the blank pages filling up (just three to start, and then I ran over to four). No music, but the sound of snoring from the next room, which was good and soothing. As I do more of my morning writes directly into the computer, sometimes I forget how good it feels just to be on the page with no direction. Being in that space–just writing, no other goal–is good self-care for me.
Here’s a prompt from last night’s last Summer ’10 Write Whole workshop:
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Today I am thinking about how to move forward. I get up, less nauseous, make my coffee, come into the quiet office, light a candle, write in my notebook for awhile. The pen moving across the page makes different things happen than fingers moving against keyboard. my candle’s still lit. How do I move forward. One small step: one thing, every day, that reminds me I’m human, while I move amid all this inhuman infrastructure. Water the plants, listen to music made with fingers and breath instead of keystrokes. Rinse the mung beans just sprouting in their small plastic jar. Take one more step. Cover up the bags under my eyes and move out into the world. Let some of the dark seep through, because it’s thorough: not for pity, but because I am honest. Right?
What does it mean to be a human? During these intense-triggered times, I sometimes forget: I remember, instead, what it feels like to be outside the human experience, that disconnected, untethered. I talk with my sister and she tells me about energy, about connections among people, about that most unexplainable magic. When I talk with my sister I (eventually) remember that I’m human. I remember I have a heartbeat and blood. I remember what saved me.
I’ve been reading Andrew Vachss’ last Burke book*, Another Life. Someone asks Burke what saved him, and he says it was his family: not his blood family, of course, since he doesn’t know them, and not the ‘family’ that raised him, as that was the State, as abusive as it wants to be, but his chosen family.
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"Massive Young Stars Trigger Stellar Birth," Spitzer/Chandra telescope images
When something major is falling apart around you (or/and inside), sometimes you have to let go of the reins for a little while. At least, that’s true for me.
I’d set up a practice of writing in the blog every weekday — then, Thursday and Friday of this week, I just couldn’t do it. What I wanted to write about I don’t have words for, and if I did have the words, I wouldn’t yet be ready to share them with the world. So I took a break. I slept a little bit more. I did my Thursday workshop with the MedEd folks, worked on administrative tasks (finally got the August writing ourselves whole newsletter out), got my hair cut (again, finally), watched movies. I’m thinking I should re-read Trauma Stewardship. I’m making space to cry, to curl up into a ball. Space, too, to laugh. Yesterday afternoon I went to Bolinas and talked to the sea. That’s an important part of my self-care routine, and I just don’t do it enough. I wanted to swim, but forgot my bathing suit or a change of clothes (the last time we came to Bolinas, I had a different pair of jeans in the car, so I went ahead and got all the way in the water in my shorts and tshirt, and it was perfect) — so I just kept rolling up my jeans, and sister ocean kept on splashing me big enough that they got wet no matter how far up my legs they were. It was a good talk. I watched the little black dog-heads of sea lions peeking and poking up now and again, far from the little boys running and screaming and throwing logs to their shaggy, soaked dogs. I scoured my feet in the sand and found excellent shells.
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Today I am thinking about all the ways we replenish — or don’t.
Slept a little too much, and that only means that I didn’t get up early enough to do as much writing as I’d like to do. It definitely doesn’t mean that I slept enough. Still tired, but in that bone-dread way, like I could never sleep enough. That tells me that I’m empty somewhere, putting too much out and not filling back up enough, not replenishing the stores.
Laura van Dernoot Lipsky talks about this in Trauma Stewardship, when we’re thinking about self-care — and remembering that self-care is community-care is care and commitment to the work and the struggle, since, when we burn out, we’re defeating our larger purpose. We can each, always, find even five minutes a day to recenter on wellness, take a break, meditate, breathe deep, laugh hard. These things, even as brief as they have to be sometimes, keep us in our skin. Let me use I-statements: they keep me in my damn skin, keep me ok with being in here.
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this is a bit from my Writing Ourselves Whole newsletter for November:
Last month, I attended a day-long training on Trauma Stewardship, with Laura van Dernoot Lipsky (this training was hosted by the Domestic Violence Coalition, CUAV and the Asian Women’s Shelter — thank you so much!). Here’s what I want to tell you: there’s not anyone I know who wouldn’t benefit from the ideas and the possibility that Laura (and her coauthor Connie Burke) offer in this training, and the corresponding book. Although it’s written primarily with those who work with survivors of trauma in mind, what I know is that all of the communities I participate in are traumatized right now, and so nearly all of us are going to experience trauma exposure response — which means we could be doing trauma stewardship.
As someone who has come up with every reason there is not to take care of myself (too busy, too guilty, too tired, not as bad off as others, etc — you know these, don’t you?), I’ve been in need of a change for at least a year (some might say longer), and couldn’t figure out how to make space in my life for self-care. And often, I couldn’t honestly believe that I deserved it.
In her introduction, Laura says this about the book (Trauma Stewardship: An everyday guide to caring for self while caring for others), and about the ideas of trauma Stewardship as a different way to walk with the work we’re doing in this world: Continue reading →