Introductory Metaphor

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The Living Room

a pair of hand made socks
knit with cheap, colorful yarn
the mittens not quite the same size
a vase about to topple on my table
as the cats race-chase through the house
chirping and trilling at each other
their joy for grey days and wet food.
a couch full of hangars and clothes I need to put away
lit dramatically by the window
pillows that have been laid upon so lovingly they're flat.
a painting by my sister
and At-at in a hat with Mickey Mouse ears
and a skull whose brain has been replaced
with a number of dice.

Carrie is taking a creative writing class in school this semester, and I’m blatantly stealing her assignment prompts for my own use. In this case, the assignment was to write a poem introducing oneself to the class via a metaphor. I am a mess. A total disaster area of love and happiness, but a mess nonetheless. I particularly relate to the ceramic skull in which we keep our gaming dice.

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prepping the apocalyptic poetry

Today, I’m listening to this music and brainstorming about my idea forĀ Poetry for Your Personal Apocalypse. I went on Flickr for some ideas…


I started thinking about the meaning of this apocalypse idea that we’ve been batting around for centuries, about all the things we fear the most…

These Burdens

Bathroom Graffiti

But I don’t want to just wallow in the grief and fear that fuels this end of the world madness. I think poetry is meant to get us through it.

Art for Healing 004

houston rain on the lonely bicycle : manhattan (2004)

I think this project is about finding the goodness amidst what feels like insurmountable negativity, which is sortof what life in general is about in this world.

It’s ambitious, I admit. We’ll see how far I get with it.

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the poetry journal

This week, I found a bunch of old poems I wrote during high school.
It always makes me sad to look at those notebooks because for a minute there, I was this cocksure little punkass — starting around the acid incident, leading into the ecstasy incident, peaking somewhere during the friendship with Kat, then plummetting when I met J. It raises a distressing issue for me. In the past, my creativity was wrapped up in drugs and sex, and when I got into that relationship, I let it all go.
I had once written that using was like being in a bad relationship, but then I went and actually gave up drugs for a bad relationship. Why’d I do that? Well, at least now I can vouch for my own words. They really are quite similar, except that one destroyed my writing and the other didn’t. And that’s where I have trouble — the belief that he destroyed my writing — that because I gave up so much for him, I can never get it back.
I had created … I had been given a sanctuary in which to flourish. In my parents’ house, I had the run of the entire second story, and I transformed it into a temple of my own creativity. As a little kid, I’d thought of becoming a nun, but by 16, I’d discovered the myth of the sacred whore, and I became a different kind of nun — one who celebrated the body electric. I immersed myself in poetry and lust — for life, for art, for bodies, for language. I truly believed in ecstasy — not the drug but the state of being.
It was a small, predictable and very costly failure when I, like a completely average teenage girl, left all that behind for the approval of an older man — just some guy — an imbecil with a penis. This is why I’m a feminist now: If there is some other girl who has cultivated this incredible artistic existence for herself, I want her to know her own sovereignty. I’m talking about the power of self-validation.
It’s true that I will always write — I can’t not write — but if I knew then what I know how, I would have become a very different kind of writer.

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finding compassion in your art

Kwan Yin and her snail

I don’t know how to write, so I put it on my to-do list every morning:

Write. Sit down with a notebook and pen, and see what happens. Find a way in.

Flashback to grad school, crying while reading to my workshop group a journal entry about why I began writing. I described writing itself as “my first friend.” Yes, that’s still there, but writing is no longer a self-indulgent act. That first friend has become a partner in exploration, art, expression, love and discovery. The past couple years have changed me.

I have had to learn over and over again that the world does not revolve around me. When my boss’s daughter got sick, I was confronted with this reality once again, this time more harshly than ever before. She was just shy of a year old when she was diagnosed with cancer. Her dad utterly disappeared from the office for a week before telling us what was going on. We learned he’d been staying at the hospital day in and day out. He and his wife had to take turns holding the child because she was too scared to sleep in this strange bed, in this strange place, surrounded by strange people and all their instruments. For the foreseeable future, my boss would be out of the office.

My work load doubled. My stress load tripled. All the decisions I used to run by him I had to make on my own. As the project manager, I became the default leader and spokesperson, but only with massive support from my coworkers. None of us were prepared for this, but we presented a united front to the rest of the world. There was no question about what responsibility belonged to whom. We did it because we had to. Because we couldn’t cure her cancer, and we couldn’t remove that terror of losing a child, but we could run the damn company, so we did.

We still had to negotiate boundaries, but the question was no longer, “How much will I get paid?” but rather,” How can I help you without hurting myself?” We are all already tired and overworked, but more help is needed. How can I take on these extra tasks, carry these extra projects, take some of the burden off of you … without destroying myself? That’s the difference between self-serving and service. It changes everything.

Kuan Lin

Don’t get me wrong — it was a terrible year. Some of us wanted to leave, but the core team stayed until the little girl began to recover and her dad could return to a normal work schedule. I told myself, “I will be here as long as I have something to learn.” And learn I did.

I went to my therapist. I talked to my yoga teacher. I told anyone who would listen how awful my job was. Some felt sorry for me, but all would also ask, “How is she?” Knowingly or not, they refused to let me think it was all about me. Their concern for her drove that point home slowly but surely: Ok, yeah, so you hate your job. How’s the little girl with cancer doing? Is she going to make it? How are her parents coping?

When she was in remission and he finally came back to work, the universe began to align things so that I could move on at last. One year after her diagnosis date, I was beyond burned out but continued checking items off my daily to-do list. Eventually, I made my exit.

So now … what were we talking about? Oh right. Writing.

Compassion Outstanding Making People happy Adopt a friend Sharing Smile as you go I always help Others No one left alone, Berkeley, Age 10, TOPS, Seattle, Library, University of Washington, USA

As a writer, my work will always be in some sense “about me.” The writer’s work comes from her own experience, observations and thoughts. But it cannot be self-serving anymore. Writing has become another manifestation of yoga. What can I give here? How can I serve?

In class, I ask my students, “What can you adjust here to find more ease in this pose? What little shift can you make to create stability?” When I ask this, I’m hoping they will truly become present in their bodies and aware of their movements. I believe this presence and awareness is the first step toward compassion and transformation. I try to practice the same in my writing.

Presence. Awareness. Compassion. Transformation.

It is compassion that turns a miserable experience into an opportunity for growth. Compassion turns coworkers into comrades. Compassion turns “just a job” into an act of service. Compassion turns writing from a hobby into a life’s work.

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friendship and other acts of subversion

I have decided that the core way for me to engage as a feminist is to be friends with other women. Yep. Just being friends. But like … doing it overtly. Intentionally. Sometimes even loudly.

I believe that supporting other women unconditionally is an act of delicious subversion.

I believe that being honest about my own struggles both professionally and personally frees me up to be true to myself and gives other women (and men) permission to do the same.

I love cheering for my friends’ successes.

I am thrilled when I can introduce two women to each other and see their friendship take off.

I believe there is enough love to go around, and if we all open up a little and share where we can, everyone benefits.

I have never, not even once, lost something by being happy for someone else.

Why am I telling you this today? Because my friend Ellie is amazing. She’s celebrating the first year of her business today by launching a rad new program on her site. She’s following her heart and doing the work she loves, and I am so fucking happy for her.

This is an accomplishment not just for her (although she did an awful lot of work to get where she is now) but for all of us young women in our 20s and 30s to see one of our own having this kind of success. It’s inspiring to see her radical bootstrapping ways. It’s heartening to see her work through challenges and come out stronger every time. And it’s an honor to be her friend.

So, here’s to chicks who are friends, creative ladies who share their inspiration, and girl geniuses banding together to change the world.

Here’s to you, Ellie. Thanks for being your brilliant self.



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