starting a conversation

The heart is able to forgive and repair.
It can change its shape to let us in.
It can expand to let us out.

– From I was there in the room Eve Ensler

Over the course of the past three months, we’ve participated in a group conversation on self-acceptance. That means acceptance of everything: bodies, histories, flaws, and beauties. Sometimes to do that, we need something to jar the system, to shock us into knowledge of ourselves that we didn’t know was the there: un-captured by even the imagination, the unknown unknowns.

Last week, I brought in a monologue from Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. It seemed like a natural step or an initiation. I would say vagina a bunch of times out loud. We would talk about our bodies with new words, with reverence. We would know ourselves in a new way. Or we would at least try it out.

Continue reading

more than i wanted to know

hands against rain-splattered window

credit – flickr

This week, our inside circle opened with a powerful poem by Maria Maziotti Gillan called ‘Winter Light.’ In four short but powerful stanzas she manages to pull gratitude from a litany of past regrets. Her second stanza begins, ‘I have learned more than I ever/wanted to know, dream/back into innocence,/life clean of regret and the sky/not darkened . . .’

From that simple first line, long-time writer AW created a deeply moving tribute to the gentle heart that beats inside her, even in the face of so much pain and sorrow – pain and sorrow she never wanted to know.

I have learned more than I’ve ever wanted to know. I want to erase the painful memories, leaving behind the noise that doesn’t let my mind rest, the anger that dances in the hallways. I’ve learned to live with and adapt to the all-consuming anxiety written on everyone I’ve come to know.

I’ve learned that with forgiveness there comes a piece of me that found silence through all the noise. I’ve learned to let go of everything that holds me back from going forward. Continue reading

power of mind

One of the things I love about writing with women inside CRCF is their openness to challenge, to new things. Not at first, perhaps. The occasional grumble or raised eyebrow, even outright resistance. But they listen. They try. Even when the directions are complicated. And then there comes the moment, that marvelous ‘got it!‘ moment when a connection is made. The eyes brighten. The face relaxes. The hand is off across the page, writing, writing, surprising us all with what emerges when the chime signals time to stop.

Last night the initial writing prompt was three two-minute memories. First, a gesture or physical habit; second, a smell redolent with meaning; third, personal experience of an historic event. For the final 20 minutes of writing, and after sharing initial words with a partner who helped her uncover a connecting thread, each woman was tasked with connecting her words into a combined story. Some spun off in a different direction; some condensed the initial three. The following is one woman’s response:

1.  Me, I have a hard time sitting still. Even if I cannot move, my mind is wandering. I am ever-moving; slowly, quickly, sadly, angry or happy. My body does not like to stop. What would the silence say? What if I just stopped moving – my foot, my hand, doing crunches on the cold hard floor. What would I be – or who? Maybe the question itself scares me. The answer totally freaks me out.

2.  The smell of old books – or paper – reminds me that life is more than just me. The world is huge and everything in between. The smell of old books takes me back to a time when I still had a bit of faith in myself. The smell of old books takes me back to a time where I made many mistakes. The smell of old paper – oh, what a wonderful smell. Where am I going to go today? The smell of old books, a memory I do love to have. The smell of old books is a magical thing for me.

3.  On September 11, 2001, I woke up to panic and frenzy. A plane had hit the twin towers – not just one, but two. I was living in D.C. at the time and I remember they were saying a plane was headed to the Capitol. Indeed, so close, the plane went into the Pentagon. I have never seen the sadness or the unitedness of this nation as poignant as it was in those days to come. I have never seen our nation’s capitol at a stand-still. D.C. streets looked like a battle was close at hand. Army personnel, guns, trucks, ammunition everywhere. The tanks lined almost every street of the city. I remember hearing the jets above – constant fear of another attack. I remember being so relieved that it was our country in control again – or so I thought. I remember being proud that day, that we didn’t give up, that people were really helping people. We were there for each other like I’ve never seen before.

[COMBINED WRITING]

The Power of My Mind

Today is a great day to be exactly who I am.
That is the ability of the mind. My mind.
I can believe in faith and goodness and trust; or a tragedy, a triumph or lust.
I am just learning how to use this power of my mind.
It can take me places here and far.
It can keep me in the present.
That is a gift of the power of my mind.

– SV

seeking life out of the box

In what ways are you open to the world around you? or might you be that you are not? What things hurt you,  harden your heart, hold you back from your own best self? How can writing free you from boxes you close yourself up inside?

These questions in last night’s writing circle prompted lengthy, deep and revelatory writing. To a woman, the writing opened new insights about how they want to move forward in their lives, beyond the boxes of their own making as well as the box of imprisonment. The lines which create the poem below are taken from the different writings, scribed while listening to each woman read her own words. The result is this ‘found poem’ weaving together individual experience into a gathered whole.

My Box is a Fantasy Place

I find that I have retreated there willingly
this paradise of a box inside my brain
where I fly, walk on the ceiling.
Why am I so scared of other people’s judgments?
I have opened up and been burned before.
Do I dare lift the top and peer out?
Should I venture out, how far can I go?

I find the familiarity of my limits comforting,
the only place I know how to be me.
I never let people or friends in too far —
I act like I don’t care. Continue reading