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Arizona sunset

I’m a bit behind in my writing and photography. I’ve had three topics in mind to write about and a slew of photos from my trip to Arizona to edit but I haven’t had the energy to do anything with any of it. To force my way out of this brain-dead silence and lack of caring enough to start, I am starting. No promises of brilliance or even a nice story arc from crisis to personal growth.

If I was writing in chronological order, I would start with the story of my trip to Arizona. But no, I am starting with a more recent event as it is most fresh in my mind. Given that my mind resembles cheese with mold covering it, I am picking my least moldy section of thought.

Last Friday and Saturday, I took a writing class with Lidia Yuknavitch. The Loft, which is our local Twin Cities writing haven, had invited Lidia to do a reading on Thursday night and to teach the class that I attended.

The Friday and Saturday class was called “The Erotics of Writing.” The title frightened me as much as Lidia Yuknavitch did. During the reading and class, I soon learned that Lidia was no one to be afraid of, but before meeting her, all I knew about Lidia was what was between the covers of two books of hers that I’d read — “The Chronology of Water,” which is her memoir, and “The Small Backs of Children,” which is one of her novels.

Her writing both drew me in with its imagery and rawness and repelled me with its explicitness. Her writing seemed to come from somewhere unadorned by needing to smell and look and be perceived in a certain way. Her books are not in chronological order and they don’t follow the usual formula of having everything wrap up nice and neat by the end. Isn’t that a bit more like real life? Which may be why we long for our books to be more tidy.

cactus

I won’t quote the words from Lidia’s books that ripped me open. That would reveal more about myself than I’m willing to tell. I’ll just say that her books touched a raw something in me. Like this paragraph from “The Small Backs of Children,”

“For the opening, you decide to move in slow motion and black-and-white. An excruciatingly beautiful girl gone to woman, walking. A girl who has toppled over into woman, her lips already in a pout between yes and no, her torso and ass breaking faith. Moving down a tree-lined city sidewalk. Fall. Her coat pulled up to the flush of her cheeks. Her hands stuffed down into pockets. Her hair making art in the wind.”

Not everyone will like Lidia’s writing. There were sections that I thought, “Too much” or wanted to turn away from. But I didn’t. Because there was recognition there, and I couldn’t look away.

When writing directly about something is too difficult, Lidia suggested in class that we come at it figuratively. She said that often writing that way gets closer to the truth than writing about “what happened.” For example, in “The Chronology of Water” Lidia wrote about collecting rocks to tell the story of a stillbirth. It’s a matter of looking for the sensory truth of an event instead of just describing the actions, she told us.

desert rock and plant

One of the exercises we did in class was to write about a secret our body was holding. Once we’d done that, we were to write about the secret the secret was holding. The point being that often we have blind spots right next to what we know and if we can find those blind spots and write about them, we will find the deeper story, the deeper truth.

We did several free-writing sessions during the class, responding to prompts that Lidia gave us that urged us to write from our bodies. For someone like me who doesn’t want to be in her body, whose body often betrays her with panic and pain and fatigue, this wasn’t easy. Sometimes, trying to be in my body and think from that point of view brings on shortness of breath, spasms and a coldness that makes my whole being tighten in shivers. But the thing about Lidia and the students and the space we were in — it felt safe to at least give this a try.

One of the exercises we did was to close our eyes and scan our bodies for the place that was calling for attention in some way, a place where our minds lingered. Once we had found that place, we were to write about it or write from the viewpoint of that part of the body. Lidia talked about why it’s important to bring our bodies into our writing. She said it is important to tell our story the way we see it and feel it.

shadow

When we did that exercise, it was my stomach that I landed on. It is often the place where I feel my emotions and where my muscles are drawn tight like the tension a bow feels when the arrow is pulled back.

I wrote about how I used to dare boys in the neighborhood to punch me in the stomach. It was my way of proving I couldn’t be hurt. One of the paragraphs I wrote was,

“Her mouth opened in a silent scream — a Hitchcock girl on a muted television. Then came the folding, the doubling over that forced the air out of her lungs in a woosh. Being tough was no longer the point of this game. She didn’t know it yet, but she was preparing for the rest of her life.”

We so often are told that the only way to deeply experience life is to buy our experiences. We see commercials that trigger our senses instead of going out into the world and discovering all the sensual experiences that are free for the taking. Imagine if you were in your body fully experiencing life all the time? It would be too much, so it’s probably good it’s not possible. But still, the idea of trying to do this throughout a normal day is intriguing.

Phoenix-10-3

dog walk on Kings Island

dog walk on Kings Island

I started writing a very different blog post about a week ago but couldn’t get it to say what I wanted it to say, lost interest in it, and began writing this. I’m not sure this is any better but since it’s going straight from head to page, there will be less analysis involved.

And maybe that’s best.

GLBTQ Youth Summit

The Youth Summit I volunteered at on March 10th looked like it was a great experience for the youth, which is what matters. Less significant is that I was hoping to hear kids talk about what they are going through in their schools and communities. I was hoping to use that climate reading to know where, perhaps, would be the best place to focus my energies with volunteer work and activism. I didn’t come away with a clear answer but was just happy to be around so much youthful energy.

As a room monitor, I was told to be enthusiastically welcoming. I tried. Introvert enthusiastically-welcoming is probably not as bubbly and obvious as they were looking for.

I was in a session called “Activism Through Art” that was led by two high schoolers who were confident, fun, and amazing. They presented examples of activist artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Zanele Muholi, Kara Walker, Keith Haring, Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and drew attendees into small group discussions about topics like how they saw art and activism working together and what types of symbolism they saw in the art they’d been shown. The session ended with attendees using the art supplies the young women brought to create their own art.

So I still don’t know exactly what schools today are like for GLBTQ youth, but from the number of kids attending, who ended the day by talking to their legislators about their concerns, I take it that legalizing gay marriage and new school policies against bullying have not solved everything.

One Day of Spring Teaser Weather

On a lighter note, last weekend (March 12-13, definitely not the more recent March 19-20) the weather was gorgeous, with a high on the 12th in the 70s. I spent almost that entire day outside. First riding Luke…

horseback riding horseback riding

Then going on a bike ride with a friend (unfortunately no photos, but do have photos of a Friday night bike ride)…

bicycle ride in Anoka bicycle ride in Anoka bicycle ride in Anoka

The weather worship extravaganza ended with a dog walk…

dog walk on Kings Island dog walk on Kings Island Writing

I’m struggling to get back to some SOLID writing after sending my 260 page manuscript off to my son for his input. The book includes some things he wrote and things I’ve written about events we went through together so I need his viewpoint before I go any further.

So I’m trying to get started on a new project. I have an idea for a shorter piece – a simple ebook – but it appears getting started on a new project is not simple, no matter how short and light-hearted I imagine the finished product being.

I also have another book’s worth of writing that didn’t make the cut for the first book. That actually might be easier for me to start working on than the ebook, as the idea is a bit more concrete.

I did have a solid writing routine going. I had daily time set aside, and I didn’t allow myself to think about other options for filling that time. I need to get back to that.

That means pushing past how wiped out I feel (perhaps caused by the usual “it’s been winter for five months and I’m tired of being cold” feeling).

I need to push past that.

And put my Java face on…

dog walk on Kings Island

horse

 

dog walk

I was the child who climbed up into the cradle of tree branches with a book, a pen and my journal and observed the world from a safe distance. Maybe it’s time to come down and tell people what I saw. ~ Maery Rose

Within the up-down weather confines of February, there is nothing to stand in the way of the twin emotions of anxiety and depression, who run around the room like children who have had too much candy.

And my birth mother died.

I wish I could just say that my mother died but that would be confusing as my other mother has been dead since 2007. It strikes me as funny how I could refer to these two women as “A Mom” for adoptive mom and “B Mom” for birth mom, and so I shall.

I only met B Mom in 1998. With her living so far away, I only spent maybe forty hours total with her. Having to continuously deal with my own anxiety, I didn’t deal very well with being around a similarly agitated person. She made me so nervous and uncomfortable and fearful that we rarely spoke.

So perhaps one would suppose that her death would barely be a blip on my radar for numerous reasons. And yet it has sent me into a tailspin during a month of tailspins that are making it difficult for me to function properly. So forgive me if I say something odd or disturbing or if I seem to be withdrawing from people who have done nothing to make me feel the way that I’m feeling. I sometimes fear I will shatter if you touch me. Perhaps I am just afraid of crying.

Certainly, I will put on my best face, my best funny act, my best macho strut, but there will be breaks in what I can maintain.

horse

 

I was listening to Peter Rollins on the RobCast this morning. He’s written a number of books, including his most recent “The Divine Magician” and “The Idolatry of God.” There were many interesting points in the interview but my ears perked up when he began to talk about why people come to his live events rather than just read his books or listen to a podcast or YouTube video.

“Primary reason people are there is because they feel really alone and they want to be in the room with other people who are on the same journey.” ~ Peter Rollins

With losing my B Mom, I wonder who I can talk to or relate to about what it feels like to lose the mother who gave you up?

My A Dad died when I was 28. My A Brother died when I was 37. My A Mom died when I was 50. And that was the end of the A list.

My B Dad died when I was 51. And now my B Mom has died.

What got me through the loss of the A List is that I had something to do to prepare for the memorial service and I had people to grieve with. With the B List, that hasn’t been the case.

dog

So all the struggle and processing goes on inside at the same time that I’m finishing up a book that includes some of the story of being an adoptee and finding my birth family. But very little of the details of that are actually in the story. The way that the story is about being adopted is what it did to me. How I grew up believing being giving up was about me — about being a worthless, unlovable child. And nothing in my life contradicted that belief. Or maybe there was something, but I couldn’t see it.

Peter Rollins also talked about how we can grow up believing something and then later, as our experiences and our maturing adult minds gather refuting information, we change our beliefs. Yet, when under duress, we don’t fall back on our new beliefs but instead, what floods back with a vengeance are those old minds patterns and habits that we thought we had replaced. I think that is the problem with me right now.

horse

And so I go off into the world, reaching out a hand here and a hand there. Taking a walk. Riding a horse. Making an appointment for a massage. Making hot chocolate with marshmallows. Buying essential oils and teas that promise relaxation.

Thank goodness for Steve who is busy in the kitchen making some kind of something (he’s been into cooking lately and I certainly will not complain). For Luke who is the epitome of calm and quiet and passes that on to me. For Java, another animal friend who does the same. For Latte who does her bow-and-run dance for me and makes me laugh. For a friend handing out free samples of her Naan at Lunds, who has no idea that five minutes with her made me feel better. For a dear cousin who seemed to know I was thinking about her and gave me a call when I needed to hear her familiar voice. And another friend who listened patiently to me on the phone today and has invited me to visit her next week. And a couple other friends who have checked in to see how I’m doing.

horse

Oh, and there was the guy I passed walking his little beagle puppy — that puppy was was scampering through puddles and he made both his owner and I laugh. And one of the guys working at the barn, who told me what a great horse Luke is, “Never any trouble from him,” and who stood and petted Lukes face for awhile before returning to his chores.

Perhaps no one is on my exact same journey or knows exactly how I feel or even that I’m hurting at this time, but a smile, a kind word, setting a minute aside to chat — they do so much to touch a life and to heal.

So thanks to all the people I passed and spoke to in the past week. And for those people I haven’t had contact with, I’ll thank you also because I’m positive you have done something similar for someone else, perhaps without even knowing it.

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