I did the Pennebaker Paradigm for 2 days and decided I had done enough. I do believe I will keep doing free writing in 20 minute bursts every day, just not about bad memories. My experience was this: First, I tried to just write about the painful memory. This was sort of good, because it made it real…but it also made me pretty sad. I did a good job of stopping when it felt like too much, and grounding, using writing. For example, I wrote about what my bedroom looked like and what clothes I was wearing. Later, I switched to a different style, where I rewrote the trauma. In this version, a second, empowered “me” comes to my rescue. That felt very contrived at first, but I think it was a good exercise/ thought experiment. I’m glad I did it, because it inspired this poem that I rather like, even though it’s short and simple.
Here is something I wrote tonight during our ten minute writing sessions. I’ve italicized the prompt.
To find out who you are is perhaps an impossible task. Some find it comforting that we are everchanging and that the ego is an illusion. I still find that scary. I think about these questions when I do my treatments. It’s best if I can be outside, looking at the skyline.
I like living out here, away from the rushing world. There are political signs and flags that I find infuriating and frightening, but mostly we live under the radar. I’d like to keep it like that Though it makes me angry that we even have to think this way.
It feels almost silly. Denial is strong. I find myself thinking it’s all just too dramatic. Too cinematic. The pandemic, the political unrest….it’s truly unreal. I wonder what else is coming. I feel so removed. I barely consume news and get my headlines from Joey. He’s extremely on top of it.
Sometimes I feel guilty about this, but it’s vital I protect my mental health right now. Paranoia can be a problem. In 2016 I was hospitalized shortly after the election. One of the things I believed was that nazis would be coming for us in the night. This was among other wild ideas, and I was definitely unwell. But it’s not that paranoid of a thought now, if you ask me. I can’t even imagine what’s next.
I also would like to point out that for undocumented immigrants, this “being taken away” is already a reality. It’s happening. Also for people of color, with regard to the police. I guess my sense of “unrealness” is my white privilege showing.
Anyway, I started with the idea of “finding out who you are.” I guess now is really the time for that, huh?
Ugh, today was not great. It’s amazing how all my insight can just go out the window. I’m really grateful to have a partner that helps me keep things in perspective though. Here is the very logical, admittedly humorous breakdown of what I did today. Paraphrased.
Writing course prompt gives option: write about happy or sad time. Obviously sad is the deeper choice. Plus, my poems last night were positive, and I have to show my range. I will write a poem about the most traumatic moment of my adult life and something I am still really struggling with. That will really move ’em! Aren’t I winning at this Writing to Heal Course? Open up old wounds and heal those motherfuckers!
Uh oh, I’m crying. For some reason I now feel really depressed.
Me: *sobbing* I wrote a sad poem about when we broke up and now I’m sad.
Me: Can we hug?
Joey: Of course.
Joey: Maybe you need to focus on grounding yourself in the present moment.
Me: I think I should do ketamine right now. I think that would be a great idea for me.
Joey: That is the worst idea ever.
Me: I think I should burn the poem!
Joey: Are you sure that’s dramatic enough?
Me: I will at least rip it up and delete it from the submission page for my class. Oh no, it won’t let me do that! I’m gonna freak out now!
Me: Are you annoyed?
Joey: It’s a little frustrating.
Me: I’m sorryyyyyyy
Joey: Stop licking your wounds! Do you need a cone of shame?
Shortly after: lot’s of laughter, albeit somewhat strained.
I’ve exhausted myself emotionally today and probably need to sleep. Why am I sometimes like this? Well, I know, I just don’t want to get into it. I’m just going to laugh at it because the alternative is crying and I’m all cried out.
This probably goes without saying, but I need to stick with a healthier approach to being an artist. My health as a human depends on it.
After this I felt all pouty and needy and nothing was good enough. Blah.
Here’s a really good quote from a book I’m reading. I’m just gonna put this here.
“Our fundamental longing to belong and feel loved becomes an insistent craving for substitutes …Our longing for sex and affection can become an anguished dependency on another human being to define and please us…. If we have been acutely frustrated or deprived, our fixated desire becomes desperate and unquenchable, and our entire life is hijacked by the force of this energy. We feel like a wanting self in all situations, with all people, throughout the day…This kind of thirst contracts our body and mind into a profound trance…The color of autumn leaves or a passage of poetry merely amplifies the feeling that there is a gaping hole in our life. …In bringing a clear comprehensive awareness to our situation, we begin to accept our wanting self with compassion. This frees us to move forward, to break out of old patterns.” -Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance.
Tonight I went to my first writing circle for the writing course I’m taking. We did quick prompts and writing exercises after introductions. I am really fucking proud of myself and kind of shocked. We were told to write and then read 20 facts about ourselves and I took the opportunity to grow as a person and face my fears. I told this all white, seemingly upper-middle class group of 5 cis straight women and one cis straight man that I identify as “someone who is neither male nor female and is also both.”
The woman who went before me revealed she was very Catholic, so that sorta lit a fire in me. What was lovely was later in her writing she made it clear she is not a typical Catholic. Anyway, I would have NEVER done this, probably even a few weeks ago.
Anyway! I’m so fucking proud of myself. I didn’t even feel that anxious afterwards. I felt like I actually could exist in that space. It’s surreal for me. Luckily we weren’t allowed to comment after so that helped. Hopefully I don’t get emails telling me I’m an inspiration….haha. So embarrassing. But if I do I’ll try to take it with gratitude. I also came out as in a gay relationship.
Lastly, I want to say…I’m a really fucking gifted writer. I don’t feel this that often, so I’m letting myself bask in it. It’s not that the other people were bad, it’s just I was really impressed with my ability to write meaningful poetry on the spot. Like in a matter of minutes. I mean the exercises were just to kinda write junk without thinking, but I honestly came up with the drafts of two pretty strong pieces that I like a lot.
I also took guitar lessons this week and I already am improving at finger picking. Maybe I’ll be able to make some music I’m proud of…I certainly am ready with the lyrics part and have been for a long ass time. I’m really excited about making prints of my visual art, too. I pretty much feel the best I think I’ve ever felt.
I woke up thinking I was going to write a pretty powerful blog entry. I’ve been trying to comprehend MAGA people and how they can so blindly follow trump. Something about it seems familiar to me, and I realized, I can relate it to somewhat in my devotion as a once die-hard Morrissey fan, even in the face of his bigotry again and again. It was the media against him! But he made his allegiances pretty clear in mid 2019 when he wore a button of a far-right racist British hate group on Jimmy Kimmel live.
This blog entry, about how I do somewhat understand trumpees, is something I’d like to write eventually. However, it brings up years of pain and mental health crises that I realized, I don’t want to think about this morning! Although I mapped it all out in my head while tending to the chickens (distracted much?) and I felt the surging energy to get the words out NOW, I felt my heart racing and I just realized, this isn’t the time. This also made me realize what an positive impact giving up this cult hero had on my life.
Something I’ve been wrestling with is writing about trauma. I used to do it mindlessly, and if I may say so, quite well. I’ve been told I really capture the feelings in my work of what it is like to be in some horrible situations, such as isolation, abuse and rape. I was disconnected from it though. And it hurt me. Writing it and sharing it almost always lead to drinking, drug use, and self-harm. And in worst scenarios, pretty verbally abusive behavior towards my partner, following a reading of Show Trans in Boston. I haven’t really written in a while. Not anything that I was very connected to, but now I am. And I want to do it in a way that is healing and healthy.
I started a more creative piece (I did write those blog entry updates recently, but was pretty dissociated) about the past few years: my time spent in the psych ward, addiction problems, and probably the most traumatic of all, Joey’s and my year long breakup after 6 years together. It was a breakup I thought would be forever, and in fact, for the first 3 months I thought I’d never see him or my chosen family again, because it was too painful for me. It was one of the worst traumas I’ve been through. It is something I think I need to write about to heal. But when I’ve tried lately, and even shared some of it at my writing group, I feel awful.
I’m taking two writing courses over the next few months. One is called I Am Here: Affirmations as Forms of Resistance. I’ve only gone to one zoom meetup so far and it was AMAZING. This workshop is three more weeks and it’s free, with a suggested donation to the cafe in NYC sponsoring it. I highly recommend it so far. The other one is starting tomorrow. It’s called Writing for Happiness, Healing & Health. This one is 8 weeks, twice a week, and I paid for it. I’m hoping these two workshops will help me get some ideas about how to approach some of these difficult topics.
In other news, I’ve been working a lot of my visual art, namely my marker drawings. I want to start selling it, starting as prints. I’ve ordered some samples, and I should have at least 3 up for sale on my etsy store within a few weeks. I find real refuge in my art. It is pretty purely joyful, featuring expressive animal portraits and vibrant patterned backgrounds. I’ve been working on these types of pieces for about 6 years, and I plan to keep going with the series. Sometimes, that’s just what I need. So instead of writing that article about current events and cult mentalities, today I am working on a portrait of a sea slug. And I feel pretty good about that.
Does anyone else find they are ridiculously hard on themselves? Like, why? Why am I beating myself up over nothing? Today I had my writers group and I went to a zoom workshop online about making zines. Why do I feel like I could never make a good zine? Why am I so down on my writing? I just had an amazing reading. I have barely even tried making a zine. Oh and that’s the other thing. It feels overwhelming.
I should really feel proud of myself. I have so much I am doing to find connection. My writers group, a queer open mic I might start, guitar lessons starting soon, a memoir writing class. It’s okay that I don’t have everything perfectly mapped out right this second! I can’t even bask in success without moving on to the next “problem.”
When I was a kid, a lot of my worth was defined externally. Grades, soccer, awards, whether I was popular. I think I got it in my head somewhere that I have to produce, produce, produce to be a worthy human being. It’s exhausting.
And I’m always finding the negative. I’m really trying to change this. I watched a TED talk today called “This is why you might be depressed and anxious.” It made me feel like I’m on the right track: life outside in nature and building more connections with people. I also need to find a way to sustain feelings of pride in myself. Maybe I should write about that next.
I really want to assess why I’m doing something if it’s not to love myself, love others, or experience the beauty of life.
Another struggle is writing about bad times. I have a feeling I need to get some more of it out, from the past 6 years, particularly the past few. I also feel like it might make for good reading. But when I try, it’s too painful and I dissociate from the writing. How do I do this in a healthy, productive way that encourages healing and growth? That is one of my current main focuses. I’m hoping the class I take about memoir writing and healing can help me come to some answers on that.
Lastly: I am a good bunny parent! My bunnies have PTSD and a very very difficult breed to care for. I am doing my best! No I’m not perfect and don’t spend 24/7 doting on them but they have great lives, especially given where they came from, and I take care of all their needs. I am a good person and doing right by them! For the last time I need so seriously let this one go. It’s OK if they don’t appear to adore me like my cats do. It doesn’t mean I’m not a good person or doing a good job. This is just counter productive because then I avoid much time with them to avoid the bad feelings.
I really need to relax in many areas. Tonight I’m going to try not to worry about “projects” and maybe do some yoga and meditation, and if writing comes to me that would be great but no pressure. I need to cut myself a break!
I’m so happy with how my reading went tonight. When it first started, I blanked. I was so tempted to just close out of the streaming programs and apologize later that I had a panic attack. But something made me take that leap of faith, and it wasn’t dissociation. It was bravery.
I was smart to put the poem “Joey” first because it loosened me up and made me smile. Ah man, I can’t believe there were like 10 viewers. It’s really awesome and encouraging.
I noticed a lot of patterns and themes in my writing that I hadn’t before. One of the big ones is longing to be an animal and relating with animals more than humans. I hadn’t realized how prevalent this was until I listened to the recording afterwards.
There were a few times I stumbled and lost my place but for the most part, I was present, in a way that I never used to be for my readings in 2011-2016. I feel really accomplished. And not totally freaked out now that it’s over, like I want to self harm or something. Not at all.
I’m going to copy in a few poems I read.
He is effortlessly himself
Light blue eyes
And a messy ginger beard
His chest hair creeps
Above his white tee shirt
And I am left dizzy
With the caress of my waist
I have been flighty
But he has been steady
Wise and kind
He is my man
We kiss among August fireflies
We laugh so hard over coffee
And when I’m in his arms
He smells like bonfires and sawdust
Like forests and home.
A grey ambiance
Blurry winter sun
Lavender and yellow sky
A grey ambiance
Light orange mushroom
On a log that is the den
For creatures unknown
A peeling birch tree
One gunshot far away
The crunching of leaves
Black cherry towers
So heavy, tall, and dark
The creaking of pines
Bluejay lands on branch
Chickadees eat the ragweed
Sky is a pale grey
Pinetrees reach toward the sun
Needles cover the earth below
Dark green boughs; still, cold air
At home with the land
A red tail hawk flies overhead
I sing to myself.
The stratosphere breaks
Light and airy thoughts
Sky cracks of yellow, white, and orange
Brilliant sun through slate lavender clouds
Blush orange and cream horizon
Steel blue shapes, moody
Dusty rays of light descend
Ink on my cold hands
I long for community
And fear others humans
Navy hills loom
A pheasant thumps her wings
And disappears into the pines
Four crows fly overheard
Talking to one another
Humans belong to the land
Humans belong to the sky
And I have a clear vision of myself
(Writer, artist, healer, builder, animal)
Then the stratosphere breaks
Revealing baby blue.
My pale naked form
In the white winter window light
It’s Christmas and it’s snowing
Thick, warm air radiates
My walls are baby blue
My angled ceiling is larch wood
My blankets are soft fleece
I begin my reconnaissance
Of belly fat and cellulite
Of unruly dark hairs that poke out
Of the scars on my thighs
Whose origin I’m ashamed to recall
Of so called
But this time I halt
These reprimands are just habitual
Perhaps, maybe, bear with me….
My body is sacred
Or person on a journey
To be as I am, terrifying
But worth it
Just like my ancestors
I take this awkward, two-legged form
To the animals, we probably all look mostly the same
Reflecting on 2020 seems like too much of a task for me tonight. I will share some of my visions for 2021.
I’d like to experience a lessening of generalized anxiety. This is still pretty bad for me. I’d like to be able to sit with myself, most of the time, and feel grounded and safe and stable. Right now I have racing thoughts and a racing heart all too often. I want this to be a more rare state for me, and not a general way of living.
I want to connect with other people. I have some ideas up my sleeve. I want to build genuine community and friendships. One thing I have in mind is a writers’ retreat on our property, and I know Joey has ideas of bringing people here as well. I’m very excited about this. I’m hoping to surround myself with people often, with space to retreat of course, because I am an introvert. But I want to feel connections in 2021, like I never have. This will include branching out to see what offerings are available in my new town. I’m interested in taking lessons in all kinds of creative things if possible.
I want to use writing as a tool for healing. I really want to focus on this above all other things. I don’t want to focus on whether it is clever enough for an imaginary audience, or worse, marketable. I want to really express myself and create beauty in the act. I want to explore other art forms too, like pottery, clay, guitar, songwriting. I want this to be the year I do things without judgement and pressure from myself.
This is specific, but I want to have a website that better showcases my art, and not only my writing. I might be able to do that with this site. I’d also like to figure out how to get rid of the ads on this site.
I want to use my body more in 2021 and be more in tune. I bought an elliptical for the cold months, and I want to keep up my mindful walks and yoga. I want to focus on releasing trauma that has been stored in my body for years and years. I want to be physically freer.
I hope in general it is a year of healing energy and inspiration. Happy New Year, reader.
I’m reading live on Zoom in a couple days. Right now I’m freaking out that what I have isn’t good enough. It was a hard day. Why am I insecure? I hold onto past events and project a negative future. I sit in a brain state of judgement, rather than just letting it be. On days like this, I forget what it feels like to even enjoy myself.
Sometimes when I look at the horizon I feel nothing. Sometimes I feel empty and lonely and uninspired. I don’t feel I belong. I feel sad and afraid, and sometimes I’m not even sure why. All I can do is accept this, and breathe. Fighting it makes it worse.
When I was a child, I avoided these feelings by constantly living in a fantasy world. When I got to be a teen, that magic ability wore off and I became depressed. I still miss that escape. My Neverland. It’s what I try to return to when I’ve abused substances or lost myself in another person.
We tell these stories about who we are again and again.We form grooves in our brain. We wear down pathways. Who am I if not my trauma? It’s a very good question with which to start.
Self-criticism is a knife with which I cross out and delete words. Heaven forbid I appear trite. When sometimes it’s these words that are most true. But I cut out what might seem like crap to others. Who?
Forget them. What is it I need from writing this piece?
I’m trying to focus on how much I’ve grown. My resilience is amazing. Just this year alone, I am more independent, happy, steady, calm, secure, creative, confident, and stable than I have been in a long time. I am valuing and taking care of myself. I have an awareness of my mind and body.
What would it feel like to be secure in myself as an artist? What would it feel like to be secure in myself, period?
Cravings are intense. For sex, for drugs, even for too much coffee and chocolate. I am still an addict, and maybe one forever. It’s learning how to ride those waves, I suppose. What to consume in moderation and what to abstain from and when.
I hope I feel better tomorrow. That is my intention. But if not, I do think I am doing a good job of accepting my state. No matter what, I’ll be okay. I learned that with the trauma of losing Joey for a while. I lived. The chickens being killed was also a horror I survived. I can deal with sadness. It’s better than the anxiety to avoid it. It will pass. I will remember how to feel good again.