Diving In

I won a grant

And now I must dive into words...my words.

I've done all the throat clearing parts...prepared the space, carved out the time, created a schedule and shared it with family and friends. I have even addressed my inner critique/scathing asshole, but the time at long last has arrived. 







It's time to dive.

I have some essays to write. When I made the proposal, I had all sorts of ideas and now, of course, they seem terrible. What was on my heart at the time seems hard to find at the present moment. Instead, I am going to simply search for my truth. 

I feel like to write means to dig into nooks and crannies that I am not totally sure of, but they feel necessary to at least visit.

I was asked to write a bio for a little piece that is going to be published soon.

I said, "She finds her truth in her coffee cup, her books, her family, and though always a surprise, it's never surprising, on the page."

So I know, at the very least, the page is where I find what I am looking for. 

Here is what I mean. I sit down to write. I write. It's meandering, boring, yadda yadda yadda and then....hmm.....there is a sentence. What is that? Where is that taking me? Where will it lead me? Sometimes I don't want to go, but I'm so curious I just can't not go. So I do.

It's sort of like the best conversation with a good friend or a trusted mentor. I am free to say whatever it is I think or feel. I might stop and start and stop again and suddenly, it seems the truth reveals itself.

It sits there, quiet but firm, just sort of waiting for recognition. I can write for hours, for days, I can turn something this way and that and then...seemingly out of nowhere, there it is.

It's interesting that once you see something or say something that you can't unsee it or unsay it. This is why I tread so carefully... so slowly and cautiously. Will I unintentionally blow up what I thought was true? If I do, then what?

I get to practice listening in a group called The Red Boot Coalition. The premise is that once a safe spaced is created, people feel safe, connected, and loved enough to say their truth about the topic at hand. I have listened (too many times to count) as people speak their way into their truth. I have heard people say, "Wow, I didn't know I thought that!"It's like that for me when I am down and dirty on the page. The space is safe and I feel open and loved...like somehow my words will take care of me. 

I know I'm a bit of a weirdo. I have been accused, rightfully so, of overthinking. But much of that makes me me. Writing. It is my experience of doing and my being. Right here sorting it all out with no particular place to go and poised for new discoveries.







Enough is NOT Enough

It's a twisty-gut sort of morning. Another day, more people dead.

Now what?

Seriously.

I want to lock our lawmakers in a room with the whole population of our blessed country standing outside chanting, "We will not be moved! Act now!"

Because not only are innocent children and people being killed, not only are law enforcement officers being overworked and sent into horrific situations, but our spirit is being killed and our FEAR of acting is rising.

For the past year I have been participating in this series of step meetings from a nonprofit called The Red Boot Coalition. In each meeting, those present "work" a step. What that means is that after the step is read, each person gets a chance to respond using "I" statements. People listen. There is no fixing, changing, or judging how a person experiences the step. We hold the space and in doing so, my world has been opened through each lens, story, and viewpoint shared. It feels like action on a microscopic level.

How does that relate to this particular (and yet redundant) horrific morning?

Because, in holding this present morning, what I desire more than anything is to understand so that my actions gel with my understanding.

What is going on? and what can I do about it? I don't see a need to spend another single minute pointing fingers. Instead, I point to the dead and the grieving families and I know without a single shred of doubt that every parent in this country fears this event. I do not want to live my life in fear. 

On a very basic level, I do not care how anyone feels about gun control. Because in the end, someone found a gun and pulled the trigger and now there are dead people because of those two basic facts. And this reaction of mine is normal and I get to have it. But how can I use it?  I know I can do better, I just don't know what better is. Instead of shutting down and out what can I do? I am using this as my guide right now. Maybe you can, too.

Step Two: We came to see that, despite sometimes feeling small and powerless, we possess the power to positively influence all those with whom we come into contact, which on any given day can be literally hundreds of people. We are empowered.

For me, embedded within this statement is the crazy notion that I can be bold. I can look someone in the eye and say, "I don't know, but I do know something has to be done. What can I do? Can you help me figure this out."

I know I am not alone. And that seems to be the crux of it. We are all sitting alone wondering what we can do and then doing nothing.

I am going to reach out. I will be practical and start with the whole calling campaign of my legislators. They need to hear from me.

And I will go to my meeting on Saturday and work the step we are on which, timely enough. is this:

Step Eleven:   We are engaged.


I have a lot of thinking to do on engagement. Prayers, lighting candles, yes, even talk. It simply is not enough.

************************************************************************************************

Minnesota Guide:
Sen. Al Franken 
Phone: 202-224-5641 
Email: Sen.Franken@opencongress.org 
Twitter: @alfranken

Sen. Amy Klobuchar 
Phone: 202-224-3244 
Email: TK EMAIL ADDRESS 
Twitter: “@amyklobuchar"

Rep. Timothy J. Walz 
Phone: 202-225-2472 
Email: Rep.Walz@opencongress.org 
Twitter: @RepTimWalz

Rep. John Kline 
Phone: 202-225-2271 
Email: Rep.Kline@opencongress.org 
Twitter: “@repjohnkline"

Rep. Erik Paulsen 
Phone: 202-225-2871 
Email: Rep.Paulsen@opencongress.org 
Twitter: @RepErikPaulsen

Rep. Betty McCollum 
Phone: 202-225-6631 
Email: Rep.Mccollum@opencongress.org 
Twitter: “@BettyMcCollum04"

Rep. Keith Ellison 
Phone: 202-225-4755 
Email: Rep.Ellison@opencongress.org 
Twitter: @keithellison

Tom Emmer 
Phone: 202-225-2331 
Email: Rep.Emmer@opencongress.org 
Twitter: “@tomemmer"

Rep. Collin C. Peterson 
Phone: 202-225-2165 
Email: Rep.Collinpeterson@opencongress.org 
Twitter: “@collinpeterson"

Rep. Rick Nolan 
Phone: 202-225-6211 
Email: Rep.Nolan@opencongress.org 
Twitter: “@USRepRickNolan"

And here is a LINK to the entire congress to find information on your state.

Too Much AND Not Enough AND Just Right

I attended the retreat that I won as a result of writing THIS essay called A Heavy Heart. You might need to scroll down to the middle of the page past a video if you want to read the essay.

I  returned late on Sunday, and I am been thinking about it so much. What was it? It was too much and it was not enough. It seemed like everything and not one thing I could accurately describe. Was it just what I needed? I don't know what I needed, yet I do know that other people's stories save me over and over and over again. In reading and hearing them, I am reminded that mine, too, is worth telling. 

It was in the shower this morning that I realized that for so long, I thought what I wanted was to tell my story to you, but really, what I am attempting is to tell my story to MYSELF. I want to hold it in my hands and say, "Here, I did this. I did this part of my life and I tried to makes sense of it and see myself  more clearly."  There is a difference, I think. 

I write and share in the hopes that someone, anyone, might think, "Me too!" or, " I've never thought of it that way", but really when it comes down to it, I am simply trying to tell myself what happened and how I felt in the most honest and clear way. I get in my way all the freaking time with fancy adjectives and ulterior motives of blowing up the wrong thing when it was that quiet little thing that really got me and steered me onto the next right path. Life and writing are fraught with tiny landmines to avoid. I think, if anything, I am learning what I have been avoiding. 


***
The Retreat

The women on this retreat have a private Facebook page. Before the retreat, we tiptoed gently into meeting each other a bit. Now we are chatting away, postulating, groaning, reaching out, encouraging, scratching our heads collectively- what was that? 

I don't know. I don't know. 

Jen Pastiloff is not a fearless leader. She is fierce and loving and daring to ask questions she asks herself. Her story is full of pain and fighting and she is teaching what she needs to be reminded of every day. She lets fear along for the ride and strives to do her heart's desire anyway. She loves to dork it out with dancing and atypical music choices for yoga. Yoga, for her, is the lesson. Be in your body. Be present. Feel where you are in this space in this time. BP. Be present. I will write it on my wrist for days to come. She likes to get in your face because she can't hear and eyes don't lie. It's hard to hide or lie about feelings when someone is looking at you with love and an expectation that you will say your truth. Tears filled my eyes and the snot flew as I headed into downward facing dog while Hold On  (please listen! no shame in eighties cheese!) blasted away on the speaker. 

"What's stopping you?" she challenged. "How much longer will you let IT run YOU?"

The combination of yoga and disparate music and swearing (I loved the swearing!) and questions and writing prompts opens up a body and a heart if you let it and I tried. It felt terrifying. Sometimes I was a mess. I don't always do this emotion in the real world. I make coffee and pack lunches and write and fold laundry and cart kids and buy groceries and pray for sleep and scratch my head in confusion when someone hurts me and then I get up and do it all over again.

Emily Rapp was our writing instructor. Her own story is full of pain and so familiar with it, she knows what a writer has to do to get to the good stuff. And that hard part? The part you can't seem to do? That is where the magic is. She asked me to capture images of my feelings through memories. Using sensory details, describe a memory that illustrates happiness, sadness, anger, sexuality. It was hard. I felt overwhelmed. Anger was the most difficult for me. I guess I haven't done anger. I have felt it, but I haven't named it and I certainly haven't embodied it. 

This became even more clear when Jen asked me to hi-ya it out- release some anger. Get loud! Get angry! Use my body, my voice, and release! I tried, but it was just sort of all sitting there. My movements were limp, my voice soft. I was profoundly uncomfortable. The alcoholic brother who took my mom from me, the lost babies, the postpartum depression robbing me from my kid's lives, the family betrayals, the death of loved ones, the unemployment, the sick sickness of anorexia. That's a lot of shit. That is a life. Anyone who lives has pain. 

But. 

I do buts a lot. But I am not lying on the dirt in a Syrian refugee camp. But I am not burying my parents. But I am not staring at a spouse who betrayed me. But I am not fighting a losing battle with cancer. But it could be worse. 

But, but, but, but.

Stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff. 

So now what?

That was the final question posed to me. If I do not like how I feel or where I am or what I am doing, now what?

I am a stuffer? Unstuff!

I am scared? Do it anyway.

I am a writer? Write.

I don't know all the answers of how I can do these things or when or why, exactly, they need to be done. 

I guess if there a take away it is this:  I don't know AND it will be ok.

Life, I think, is far more AND than but.

This retreat was everything AND not enough AND just what it needed to be. 


***
As a scholarship winner, I am filled with gratitude for the space and time and gift that this experience was. Had I not won, I do not think I would have had the courage to attend. To be willing to open up in front of strangers and to yourself is not for the faint of heart. It will be a long while, before I figure it all out. I look forward to the discoveries.