This is my first blog post from this new space. Here I am in my new little office, candle lit over the laptop’s screen up on a shelf, beneath poems and postits that I brought home with me from my space at Hedgebrook. They say things like: “solvitar ambulando” and “take care of the joyful present so that it can be the joyful past (Thich Nhat Hanh)” and “I wake to sleep and take my waking slow / I learn by going where I have to go (Roethke)” and this:
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.
Too, there’s an image of me and my sister from thirty years ago (what?), in 1981, arms slung around one another’s shoulders, smiling. We are in the house my dad rented for himself and us after he sold the last place we all four had lived in as a family, before he and mom split up. My sister and I are in our nightgowns, we are relaxed and comfortable with each other: this was Before. These days, I keep this picture next to the copy of “Wild Geese,” also taped to the shelf wall, that first line reminding me (about us, about myself, about this work): you do not have to be good.
I’ve been absent from the blog, and I’ve begun to really miss this writing time/space. Today I get up late, nearly 7. I’m catching up on sleep, and still working myself back toward my old morning writing schedule — I got in the habit of staying up late when I was on the retreat, writing letters, reading, since I was able to sleep in and still do my morning writing in silence and uninterruption.
Then, when I got back from Hedgebrook, I began in earnest the process of packing and moving to a new space, and moving fully into the end of my old relationship with the Mister. I will write about that here, eventually, but for now it’s just this: I’m in a new apartment with a puppy and a writing room, a candle, and lots of space for thinking and feeling, for holding open into loss and change and new growth.
March was a big month. I turned forty. I went away for a two-week writing retreat. I moved out of a home and marriage, and then, in the midst of this, was my sister’s wedding. Am I really here in this writing? I’m aware I’m performing for you, I want to tell you everything that’s been going on, I want to make up for having been away. There are awakenings happening in me still, they are shifting and taking new shape, I don’t know how to all the way open into this new life that I asked for and now have received — a space alone. A room of my own.
A room of my own.
This is about claiming something enormous, something we’re not supposed to claim: exactly what we want. Rumi says, you must ask for what you really want. But to do that, of course, I have to know and accept what you really want, allow it all the way into my heart, let it lift up into my throat, live in me. This is what I have really wanted. What does it mean to finally step all the way into it?
Back about 8 years ago, I had my own space — when I split up with my ex wife, I moved into a studio on McAllister St. Up on the third floor, facing north, I could watch the fog roll in and out, its grey wispy fingers pushing into the summer air, bringing the seas chill right to my window. I watched the bottle brush tree outside the window. For a time, when some small birds were nested in the bottle brush or hawthorne, a hawk came to sit on the wires outside the window. I watched her face, while she got divebombed by the little birds, who wanted to distract her from their eggs. I felt guilty and ashamed after that breakup, felt awful that I wanted this space to myself, that I needed it, was also re-emerging to myself as female/femme/feminine and spent much of the first part of that time in my little two-room apartment sobbing with the loss of my butchness, with the loss of visible queerness, with the failure to escape being a girl. That was a year of shame, and I gave myself into it with gusto. I created little altar spaces all over the apartment, put up the postcard wall with images I’ve carried with me since high school, tried to settle in to a space that was really mine. But I don’t know how much I believed I really deserved it, and plus, I was already involved in a new togetherness — since I didn’t have a dog then, I could spend a lot of time over at his place. When I wanted to be with others, I left my apartment — I had some folks over, but not very often.
Mostly, my apartment was a place to be alone, to stretch as much as I could into the facts of my life as they were: I had left my marriage, I had let femininity back into my life, I was overflowing with desire and guilt over that desire, because my desire had pulled me away from the stable love in my life. Here I had launched myself out into sea — this is the quote I received yesterday, from Written on the Body, which is entirely apt:
Love it was that drove them forth. Love that brought them home again. Love hardened their hands against the oar and heated their sinews against the rain. The journeys they made were beyond common sense; who leaves the hearth for the open sea? Especially without a compass, especially in winter, especially alone. What you risk reveals what you value. In the presence of love, hearth and quest become one. (Winterson)
What does it mean to launch out onto a journey whose end is indefinable, particularly when one is leaving something stable and clear? Here I am again on the backside of a marriage, here I am again in my own space and silence, this time with puppy and room for workshops. There’s this breath and morning music, this tea, these books, this writing, this uncertainty that I breathe deep into myself. I feel no guilt, today, for needing this space. The desire is so persistent in me, so life-long: my own space to come home into, to come apart and rebuild within. I feel the struggle of it — wanting company, wanting conversation (but that I can invite in, right?) — but no shame. When do we fully allow ourselves to be exactly who we are, to have exactly what we have always needed, no matter what others think or say?
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What about a line from that section of Rumi’s, as a prompt for today — either “don’t go back to sleep,” or “you must ask for what you really want” or another of those lines. What comes for you, what wants to come out onto the page? Give yourself just ten minutes (M, in the Dive Deep workshop yesterday, observed how those “ten-minuteses” can add up to a lot of writing!) and fall into the page; follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.