Thursday, March 26, 2015

Eye trained on the sky

As part of the writing workshop with Cheryl Strayed (right?!), she offered us a series of prompts to consider. Here's one...

Create a summary of who you are.
There was Leo and Cygnus and Cassiopiea. And Draco and Virgo and Libra. But most of all I remember turning my face to the heavens and finding the points that made the handle and cup of Ursa Major. Alkaid, Mizar, Alcor, Alioth, Megrez, Phecda, Merak and Dubhe, names I didn’t know then, flat on my back, my skinny brown legs held fast against the earth in my 7th year.  
The sky over my hometown was always lit with stars, as far as you could see, the light pollution of larger cities far away. To my untrained eye and not scientific mind, the nighttime sky was a blur, an ocean of light, awash, save for the handle and cup, the only way I could get my bearings in the canopy of the world. 
And 7 turned into 17, my world increasingly complex. I was a failing high school student, newly fatherless, with sexual agency beyond my years, drunk on new freedom, coors light beer and the possibility contained in a thick course catalog from my newly matriculated university that I read like a bible. The stars were dimmed by the Dallas lights but vibrant on the road between Dallas and San Antonio where Sha and I steered her big gold cadillac into the night. Or Dallas to Houston. Or Dallas to Austin, fueled by our own sense of finding ourselves.
Those years felt ungrounded, unfixed, too much and too big. Unmoored, unskilled at navigating the map without an understanding of where I needed to go, 17 became 21 became 25 became 31, with mountaintops and oceans and foreign lands and jobs and wandering, so much wandering, in between. 
I did not fully know then, as I am just beginning to learn now in my 44th year, that I am capable of making sense of the stars, of orienting myself within the blur, of understanding the anchors in the sea of light. That in the universe of stars, and in the universe of life, it’s less about a roadmap and more about points of bearing. For a person who has sought the map, who has felt (and currently brutally feels) that the road is being made right before her feet, this is a revelation. Maybe it’s about integration instead of a specific direction. Maybe it’s about weaving the body, the mind and the mojo, understanding the landscape of possibility instead of a fixed horizon. Maybe the point of exploring is to understand where you are at any given point in time, but not be tethered by a specific path. Look at how well the explorers did when they thought they knew the way, but look at how they successfully navigated a way home by casting their eyes heavenward, trusting their bearings written in the night sky.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Impossibly Imposterous

I leave Tuesday for LA and then on to Hawai'i for a writer's workshop with Cheryl Strayed. I'm late on everything in my life right now, the mounting tension of work and an upcoming event and a move coupled with the emotional baggage of cleaning out my old home has kept me from really thinking about where I am off to and why.

In truth, I am petrified. I'm scared because I remember last summer at my workshop with Lynda Barry that I couldn't write, that my brain felt flat and beige, that I was intimidated by the women in the crowd who were professional writers who, in short bursts of time, could write pieces that left me feeling pale.

I also step back in these spaces, not wanting to be a fan girl, not knowing how to be in this world of workshoppiness. I am not a writer, nor do I consider myself to be. I'm a person that uses this tool to share things that I would normally share if I were sitting across from you. There's a heavy load of acceptance that rides along with it, and ego for sure, but it's never been anything more than what it is: a way to record my experiences, mostly for my kids someday, in a format that I hope helps other people process their own shit.

So why does it matter?

It feels like it's a lot about context, which is a space I've been exploring a lot lately in terms of life in general. What it feels like to get positive feedback from people who love you and wonder if it translates more broadly to a wider audience who doesn't know your story or love you or hasn't traveled so many roads with you. It's life outside of your own personal cheering section. It's this question of being confident in what you bring or wondering if you are believing your own bullshit. It's the journey understanding your own magic in the context in which you live. In short, what if you believe what people tell you about your writing, your spirit, your being...and it's not true. Enter these short bursts of nagging Imposter syndrome that make you wonder how it all works.

This may not make much sense, but they are things that are rolling around in my brain today as a friend and I talk about vulnerability, honesty, confidence and being solid in who you are.

This quote used to hang in my office. I need it tattooed on my forearm.