Thank you all for posting your writing goals. I wanted to see them, and more importantly, wanted you to see them. Please begin to use this forum to post other projects as well as your assignments and ask for feedback when desired. Please read the post on safe feedback.
For people who want to get their work published, I suggest that you get a book on writing a book proposal and just do it! For my second book, I wrote a proposal in two weeks and got an agent from it within two months. It can actually be this simple. For those of you who want to submit stories or articles, your homework is to get a book on writing a query or if you already have a book, just write one and get it in the mail this week!The whole process will take less than two hours and may change your life.
O.k, off to the races...........
Tomorrow evening I am giving a speech entitled "The Healing Power of Autobiography" at a college here in Santa Fe. I am beginning the evening with a quote from bell hooks; "autobiography both releases us from our past and reunites us with it." To me, this eloquently states the profound invitation of autobiography.
As you move into your assignments this week, I want you to think about writing raw. Writing raw is writing real. It is about losing control. Writing raw is about moving toward the most charged emotions and experiences rather than away from them. Writing raw is about surrender. I challenge you to write raw this week and commit yourself to your writing goals. They are entirely within your reach. Support each other.
1. Write for 5-7 minutes on the following three topics:
* The softest touch....
2. Continue adding to your "passions and obsessions list". Write fifteen minutes on one of your passions this week.
3. Begin an "events" list. Think about the most signifigent events of your life; i.e." my wedding day", "my fathers burial", "the day I lost my virginity", "my first day of school" etc. Write for thirty minutes on the one that feels the most "charged" for you this week.
*Read Anne Lamott's "Operating Instuctions" this week. Laugh and cry outloud.
* Write a letter to your child beginning with "my best day"
May the writing gods be with you!
Ok, since this is supposed to be raw, and since my goals are only for me to heal I have decised to just type this right here and now without even thinking about what to put down.
He dropped me off so I could work. I waved to my two beauties, the beloved dog, and the love of my life. He was treating everyone to an afternoon at the park. I walked up the walk of our house, our very first house. My children were concieved there. Five years dh and I had there to build our life. Our family. It was going to be hard to say good bye. New memories will be made by the family who bought it from us. My own family was off to a new place to start a whole new life. We knew that no matter where we lived after that house, no other wuold compare to it. The love shared there is etched in the foundation forever.
As I grew closer I could hear a very high pitched sound. Not sure what it was or where it was coming from, I opened the front door. I was instantly thrown onto the lawn, feet from where I stood seconds before. The slurpee that was in my hand now lay strewn across the lawn. My chest felt heavy, hard. It was painful to breath. I can hear the crackling sound. The sound of wood burning in a fire place. The black heavy smoke billowing out of the now open door.
NO!NO! NO! MY HOUSE IS ON FIRE
I got up as fast as I could, ran like I had never before, nor thought I could. I chased after my families van and screamed for his attention. He drove to me, me yelling FIRE FIRE! He yelled back ,"Where?" I sreamed "OUR HOUSE!" He drove back and parked in front of it. I ran to get someone to call 911. The street was so still. I have never remebered it bieng so quiet. It felt like death. I ran to the lady on the corner, nearly banged her door down CALL 911! CALL 911! She came, got her phone and tried to calm me down. I was with no shoes, they fell off somewhere along the way, my kids were parked in fromt of my house on fire . I did not see my husband. I ran back to the houde and opened the back door. There it was. The flame. Red. On my ceiling, on the floor. Climbing the walls. I tried to enter the house. I could not see anything. I let the flame guide my way. The smoke was a dark dark grey and thick black. It circled my body, and went deep into my chest. GET OUT my head shouted . My body could not feel but it followed. I could not breath. I felt dizzy. My whole world seemed like that smoke. Dark, heavy, black. All the sweet memories that I was sad to leave behind in the walls of that house were supposed to come with us to the new house in ways of pictures,home movies, drawings, albums, keepsakes. Gone. All gone. The furniture that we worked so hard to get. Every trinket. All the first's. My babies first teething rings, thier first baby blanket. Thier first piece of jewelery. The $20.00 bill my Papa gave them as a gift in honour of the Ukranian tradition just months before he died.
I wated to run back inside that house and burn with everything. How were we supposed to survive this? We? My children! My husband! I got to my feet to find my family. The van was still parked in from the house. As I walked out of the back yard my husband looked at me witha blank look."You can't go in there hon," He said. The neighbour came to me. She noticed I was hyper ventalating. Smoke inhalation. "I don"t care! Get my girls out of here!" I screamed! The flames were pouring out of the windows, sneaking up the the roof. The popping sound of anything wood was loud.The cabinets, I thought, and the table .Probably the walls too.
Somebody moved my kids to the neighbours house and I tried to get to them. I knew they needed me, I could see my babies faces scared, crying needing thier mommy.My heart ripped. but I could not go to them, the fire had gotten to my lungs now too. first my house, now my lungs.
I must have passed out only for a second. The fire truckes, I could hear them now. I calmed down enough to go hold my children. There they were playing in Mitsy's back yard. "Look mommy! a tractor!" she said in excitement. I tried to match hers, but I could not, I just looked away. How does one even begin to explain to two 3 year olds that what they knew as home to them now was no more? Everything they were ever familiar with gone. The cozy bed I had made for us in our family sleeping room, wall to wall mattress. The chairs they sat in every single day to eat their meals in, the ones they assaigned themselves in effort to show each other hey, this one is mine! The paly room that was next to it, all the beloved stuffed cats ad dogs. And their favorite toy of all. The one they each played with day after day, slept with everynight, gone. I could now see my house in plain view as Mitsy's house was kitty corner to mine, her backyard facing my front. Just my children and I alone. I tried to explain to my children that the fire trucks were going to come here with their loud sirens to help save our house. I knew they have always been afraid of them. I tried to brace them. They knew. They were so brave. It was an unspoken understanding of survial between us. I watched as my children played quietly near me as the first fire truck arrived. Minutes later the second, then the ambulance. Then I felt my neighbours hand on my shoulder. She said, "Is there someone you should call?" I dailed 3 numbers. Desperate to get a hold of somebody my children felt safe with. No answer. The 4th person and last on my list. It rang, she picked up, I said, " Mom?"in a small voice. she said "Yes, who?... Charmaine?" She was surprised to hear from me. It had been 3 months since we last spoke. The last words were hurtful between us. She knew, as only a mother would, any mother, even mine, that something was very wrong. " My house is on fire." I said through my tears." I'll be right there." The fear in her voice was certain.I turned to my neighbour as I saw my children watching me, and I knowing that I was about to loose control. "Could you please stay with them for a minute?" I left my children playing at Mitsy's house. I knew they would only react to my emotions. I walked to my house and saw the final fire truck arrive. I heard the fire marshall speak on his radio, "This one's big" Within the 7 minutes it took for the911 call to come in there were at least a dozen or more fire fighters saving my house. I tried to find my husband through the crowd of ppl gathering on the on the block. There he was, standing on our sidewalk, in front of the 1st firetruck starring in disbeiief. I could hear his thoughts. I could see his heart, there in the open for the neighbourhood to see. Everything he knew to be home, all the things he worked so hard to provide for his family. Firefighters were fighting hard to put out. He saw me out of the corner or his eye and he turned and we walked toward eachother. We clung onto eachother like never before. Each trying to draw stregnth in one another. Our bodies shaking violently almost in sync. Eyes closed to shut out the horror in front of us. We finally let the reality hit us, there standing in the middle of the road, in front of our house in flames for all the neighbours to see, in the safety of eachothers embrace. We both cried hard, remembering the things we lost in that house one by one. The real magnatuide not hitting us until months later. Still holding eachother arm in arm we walked silently and stood right on the sidewalk of our beautiuful , small, full of love, first house. We watched as if we were watching from a movie, the firefighters go in and out of our house carrying feet and feet of hoses. I saw firefighter after firefighter walk out of my front door, full of black soot, take off thier helmets to get some air. . That one, that one I will never forget. He took off his helmet and shook his head back and forth, head hung low. He lifted his head and looked up at us, and I knew then that he knew it was our house. I saw his tears. He turned away and disappeared into the sea of yellow. I thought firefighters were not supposed to cry?
Hours later, the firefighters left, truck by truck. The ambulance attendents wanted to take me to the hospital for smoke inhalation but I refused. My kids had been through enough. I was treated at the scene and off they went. People were between then and now coming to us holding us, hugging, offering us anything we needed.Saying sorry. Neighbours were gathering clothes, toys, toothbrushes on thier front lawns. I remember seeing my 4:30 appt show up. Thier last cut before I moved away. They had to come see me before I left. They were worried about who next was going to cut thier hair."What are we going to do without you?" It was surreal seeing thier car pull up amungst all the fire trucks. I thought, wow, life really does go on, even when it's stopped dead cold for you. It was then that I realized that my girls and I were still supposed to be having our afternoon nap. We woke up early that day for some reason. My husband was on his way to pick up the dog from the groomers. We decided to go along. We would be back in time for me to do my 4:30. We would have been in that house. With the door closed and the noise reducer on. We would have been in that house.
My husband and I had been allowed to look in the house after they said it was afe enough to do so. We could not see much. It was black. The house had an errie feeling to it. Death best desribbes it. Our house and everything in it died that day. I peeked into the front door, and could see a toy left on the floor laying where my daughter's had last played with it. A house and thigns were laughter reinged, now dark, cold and empty. Nothing left but the clothes on our backs. Now I know the profound truth to that statement. I found out the hard way.
My husband and I walked to gather our girls who had been fed supper and had had enough of playing in Mitsy's yard. Ther were eager to tell us about the fire marshall who gave them thier teddy bears like they had forgotten we were there with them when he gave the bears to them. We listened like it was the first time hearing the story." Mommy, I need to go home." Words that still pund on my heart to this day, a short year after. I know for sure that we have never felt so lost and alone.
Sorry about the legnth. I saw the assingment and went for it. This was the first time I have ever written about that day like that. I needed to do it right then or I knew I never would. I probably could have gone longer but I made myself cut it short. If it goes against the rules too much you can remove it jsut please let me know first.
I know I have no talent for writing but I was wondering if any of you think my style is too basic, or elementary? Not just this one but the others too. I am not trying to be a real writer especially with the talent here, I couldn't even compete, but I am interested in learning a few things and also to help heal myself a bit. So I hope none of you mind if I tag along and ask a few ?'s here and there?
first of all, YOU ARE TALENTED. i was there with you in that fire, crying, too! your description and details are great. Please don't ever tell yourself or say, "i know i have no talent for writing." ouch, that hurt to read that. your goal is to heal and that surely it hurts your spirit to speak to it in that matter. you ARE a "real" writer...obviously you love to write or you wouldn't be here.
and another thing , it's not about competition between "real" writers--that's the real world. for me, this is a nice safe place where we can really GET REAL, no holds barred. sometimes my voice my sound loud, disrespectful and brash, or maybe it will sound weak,naive, or sad and pathetic...but that's humanity, that's me, and i know that here i will be accepted in my naked exposure...because everyone else is naked as well.
As we embark on this "feedback thang", I will throw in my two cents here and there.
First of all, please do not ever say that you are not a writer or that you have no talent. First of all, it is self abuse and secondly, it is not true. Each of you is a writer. You each have a unique voice that is finding it's place in its' own time. You have everything you need to write simply by being human and having lived your own life. That and the willingness to show up for yourself and get it on the page.
This is a place for honor. And honor begins with yourself. Honor yourself and each other. Do not compare. There is no place for comparison when we are dealing with self expression.
Thank you all. It enriches my life tremendously to be here with you all in this forum.
thank you. you both are right.
One of my passions is the beautiful poems we all write in our minds but are not able to record onto paper. Many times while nursing my babes to sleep my mind will compose a beautiful poem, and it flows so quickly and so true, but I am not able to write it down that moment and I cannot remember it for later. I am sure this happens to many people - and am convinced that some of the most beautiful poems in the world have never been written.
Poem in my mind
Put a tiny 'o' cherrio in your mouth, your bow lips so adorable like a baby bird beak but softer more like a turtle cute that I called you as a newborn.
When you made a tiny 'o' with your lips and I tried to think what you thought and pressed my lips in a tiny 'o' and maybe then we both thought when you and I were one were egg making your way down pink glow sunrise/sunset tunnel to select your soulmate sperm.
Your small 'o' of a mouth on my small 'o' of a nipple now nursing between gasps and remnant sobs calming.
Your peaceful delicate face turned toward me asleep on the white pillow looking so grown up for using a pillow your hand on my small 'o' nipple an entreaty to stay.
As my mind composes a poem beautiful fleeting to not be remembered except the time between 9:02 a.m. and 9:07 a.m. and to later search the file cabinets and dark corners but only this stale copy to be found the original blown into the past like the solar flare off the orange red disk into the universe.
I want to get up and write it but will never remember its original beauty and so I gaze into your face and the moment is the poem. Your two hands now a double entreaty to stay and the moment is the poem I hope you will keep in your soul this moment.
No ink from squid nor paper from chopped tree to record it beautiful you more beguiling and bewitching than any goddess of love, peace or war.
'O' so beautiful.
I am passionate about finding my true voice and healing my broken spirit. Truly, this all ties in with my consummate passion for mothering my two sons. When I became impregnated with new life it was only then that I realized how toxic the world is and how toxic I was too. I let go of some very bad habits in order to create a safe place for my baby to grow. I started loving myself more as a result. I wasn’t as self-destructive in thoughts or deeds. I came to know myself more through the transcendence of pregnancy. I started to love myself. It’s a good thing, since I don’t see how you can fully love anyone else until you truly love your self.
Loving myself has always been challenging. As a child, I was molested. I never knew my father and my mother was a drug addict. Fortunately, my grandmother took responsibility for me and helped me to grow up right. I also thank God that I turned out as well as I did. I still feel so broken. I know that I have a lot of work to do in order to fully heal. Writing has done so much for me in this aspect. I know that I must write in order to heal. I know that I must heal in order to mother my two sons in the way that they deserve. My anger is dangerous. I don’t spank anymore because of this…but it manages to come out in other ways. My son’s birthday is today, and my prayer for him is that God will bless me with patience, and stillness, That this path that we are on together is savored. Because soon, too soon, he will be a man. And my little boy will be gone and I know that I will miss him. Perhaps I will grieve for all the things and moments that I didn’t savor, all the times that I yelled and overreacted when I should’ve caught my breath, let the situation set in, realize how little he is and just let it go…let it go when he’s banging my great, great grandmother’s antique chair against the wall, let it go when the energy is not contained, when it’s spilling out and wild and chaotic. How can I enjoy this? I choose not to control. I must choose not to control. But that’s what I want to do so badly. Things were out of my control for so long. I have to let this go.
What I am passionate about is everything that is helping me to heal. My list of passions is an entwined grouping of subjects: Art, creation, God, spirit, nature, life, babies, love, wholeness, and healing. God/Life/Art, the ultimate creator mother nature gives me peace enough to transcend and find my way through falls and traps, quicksand, babies playing in cat food, the messy stuff of life. I know that I am becoming whole, and I will continue to remind my spirit to let it go…
I hope it's okay if I comment, even though I am not a part of the group. I would like to be but came to it a little late! So I'm just reading over some of the threads and thinking about maybe doing some of the past exercises on my own.
Anyway, I wanted to comment on your fire story, Charmarty. My definition of "good writing" has little to do with style or beauty or ability to use words in clever ways. I mean, those are good things. But the best thing, the most important thing, is that it holds my interest. If it does that, nothing much else matters. Listen, I have a serious habit of my mind wandering and skipping or just giving up entirely when the writing isn't consistently on. Well, your story had me hooked, and I read straight through without once feeling any need to do any of those things. So don't tell me you're not a writer. As far as I'm concerned, that was a fine piece of writing.
Beneath all memory lies a moment so raw after all of these years. This is the story about the softest touch.
Having been dealt a cruel hand in my young life, I was ripped apart and without faith in humanity. Then he was there, out of nowhere, this man who spoke barely above a whisper. You had to lean close to hear him. It began with shy smiles from across the room and our attraction grew from there. We became inseparable. We walked silently in the night, fingers entwined, whispering our deepest secrets beneath the stars. I slept safely in the arms of this man who never tried to seduce me. He traced the contours of my face before leaning in to kiss me. He was so tender. Never had a man cupped my face in his hands and gazed so sincerely into my eyes, as though reading the secrets that lay buried inside. He looked into me in such a way that I could not look away.
Months passed and our friendship deepened. Slowly I opened like a flower and let him into my heart, flooded with life for the first time in years. I was surprised to find myself in love. I thought I was scarred, hardened beyond feeling, but now I was rocked with the force of emotion. Like a flood, hot and fast pouring over me. My breath came short. I agonized over the hours before I would see him again. Days went by and I waited. I poured my heart out onto paper, beautiful poetry expressing deep gratitude to him for saving my life.
Breathless, I pulled him eagerly to the couch and sat him down. "I have something to show you", I said, handing him the letter. He sat down and started to read. The room got quiet and still. To my surprise and bewilderment, he began to cry. "I can't do this", he said softly. "I also have something to tell you."
The rest is hazy, as though in a dream. He went on to tell me that it had all been a carefully planned set-up. His cousin, who was in jail, was dating my best friend. The plan was for him to meet me and get close to me in order to report back to his cousin about what we were up to. This man to whom I had poured out my soul was not who I thought he was. He wasn't even a friend. I had been the pawn in a vicious game. My heart went cold. I couldn't see, I couldn't speak. I vaguely remember him apologizing to me. He reached out and touched me so softly. "I have to go. I can't see you again." Then he was gone. I cried such desolate tears. I cried until I fell asleep, the blessed sleep of the damned. I awoke the next morning alone. There was a white rose lying upon my breast. The white rose of friendship.
This is a story which has been festering inside of me for nearly ten years. Even now as I try to tell it, it comes out awkward and restrained. I cannot express the depth of my feelings or the coldness of the betrayal. I am afraid that the pain will return. It was a savage pain that left me bleeding for many years. I tell it now in defiance, in an effort to free myself.
It was a day I was somewhat prepared for... and somewhat not. My ittle guy was to have a developmental assessment. For some reason, I wasn't really concerned. The new pediatric practice had pushed very hard for this; and I knew he was a little behind--but I didn't feel the drive to quantify it. Maybe in my heart, I just didn't want to know.
He'll be 10 months old at the end of the week. But he was a little early and so he's not really expected to do anything more than a 9 month old. Still, I knew that there were things wrong. I knew that my peanut wasn't quite right. I knew that for all I had given up in my life to be home--reluctantly and with incredible difficulty--I was glad that I had. In my heart, I knew he'd need extra care.
So in they came... and as expected, he was a little behind. Occasionally, his test score would spike up to a 9 month level; but for the most, he was registering in the 6-8 month range. Except for his expressive communication... the way he communicates outward. Taking information IN wasn't a big problem, but getting it out clearly was. He was registering in the 3-5 month old range.
I knew this. I never said a word. I buried it for the most. But I knew this. And all of the things I put together were the same things that the evaluators put together: things that wouldn't be problematic on their own, but when you put them all together they were an issue. Things like having no interest in people around him--not even in the mirror. Things like not having any stranger anxiety, but also not getting excited when he saw me or my husband. Things like being able to leave him completely alone to play for 30-40 minutes without him even noticing that he was alone. He lived in a bubble. He didn't point to things. He didn't squawk for my attention. He didn't babble--no gagagaga or babababa. He didn't try to imitate us--or anything else. He didn't catch on. And it frustrated him sometimes. It frustrated ME sometimes... when I wanted to help and didn't know what he was crying about--because the crying for hunger was the same as the crying for a wet diaper.
Of course, he would need intensive therapy. It was disturbing that the evaluators couldn't understand why his development was significantly lower here. Normally, this would point to a hearing problem which they said was clearly not even an issue. He wasn't just hearing, he was pinpointing the source of noise. There were so many things they asked about in the way of his care by professionals that were missing: the NICU never had him followed up; the first pediatrician never diagnosed a bad case of anemia despite comments on his pallor; he'd never seen a pulminologist even though he'd had a collapsed lung after birth; the current pediatrician was allowing him to significantly delay eating advances without getting to the heart of the choking and constipation that were of concern.
I just felt sick. My history is fraught with depression. I felt like the depression I endured over alot of the last 10 months made me distant from my son--causing him to get less attention and engagement than he otherwise might have had. Adding insult to injury. I also felt like this was autism. In my lifetime, I've only known 3 or 4 autistic children--one of them highly functional. But I knew that the main problem was not being able to communicate outward. I also knew they would never make such a diagnosis this young... and it bothered me. I felt horror that he would be forever trapped inside his own little mind.
I wondered if his vaccines contributed to this. During his 4 month shots, he got horrifically sick. He was born 5 weeks early and I was in the hospital for 5 weeks before that. I was just starting to find a pediatrician and really learn about which vaccinations were absolutely necessary and which were not. I didn't have all of the information--but I told the hospital that my son was NOT to have anything other than a Vitamin K shot. I was also on strict bedrest for the 6 weeks following delivery. In the end, I got bullied into vaccinating him... and now I'm really sorry that I can't cross that off the list of possible contributors to the problem
Here I sit, wondering if this is the beginning of the end of all the hopes and dreams I had for a happy and healthy child. I didn't have lofty expectations of this career or that education or excellence in a particular area: just happy and healthy. I didn't expect much. Here I sit wondering if I could've made that happen... if... Here I sit unable to talk to anyone about how I feel because my husband is already having a hard time with this and needs my support. My family and his immediately scorn me for even relaying the peditrician's concerns--as if I WANT my child to be sick. As if I told them these were MY concerns. If only they knew... I've kept my thoughts to myself.
Here I sit, thankful that I have every precious moment to be with him, knowing that he needs it, and finally feeling like I can let all the disappointments and frustrations connected with me go--because they're just not even remotely important anymore.
I think I can handle feedback on this. The event just happened yesterday so the "wound" is still kind of fresh. This was more brain dump than anything else.
Your piece made me cry. Your writing put me right there with you. It was beautiful and painful all at once. Your love for your little one is so appearent and your pain and frustration are well communicated too. Thank you for sharing.
I am marching alone. I march down the right side of the side walk: Right, left, right, left. I am concentrating on holding my head high trying to look like I know where I am going; trying to be inconspicuous; trying to be invisible. I am terrified to be marching alone, suddenly visible as a single recruit rather than anonymous and safe in the numbers of the Division. Few recruits march by themselves. I will be noticed: the curl of my fingers, the position of my gig line, the press of my uniform. There aren't many people out this early morning. It's a few minutes before colors. Colors. I will be out alone during colors. Shit. I will have to salute. I've never saluted before. I've always been in the group, somewhere in the back of the formation with the other short people trying to keep stride with the gangly guys up front. In the group, all you do is stand at attention. Stand straight, staring ahead at the backside of the recruit in front of you trying to remember not to lock your knees so you don't pass out. The person in charge of the formation salutes for all of you. You just stand there. But now here I am a formation of one. One sleep deprived recruit marching her way to class by herself on an early April morning. The warning voluntary sounds. I stop. I about face in order to face the flag pole where the Stars and Stripes will make their morning appearance in just a few moments. My heart is pounding. My feet are at a forty-five degree angle; or at least I hope they are, I'm not supose to look down to check. My fingers are curled so that my nails don't show and my hands rest at the outside seams of my dungarees. My posture is perfect. I'm squinting at the sun behind the flag pole. I remember not to lock my knees. The drum role sounds and the first note of our national anthem crackles throught the PA system. My right arm comes up at a forty-five degree angle, the fingers of my right hand brush the bill of my black ball cap with the word RECRUIT emblazed across the front in bold, gold letters. I concentrate on the angle of my hand, the position of my fingers and watch the flag come into view. I'm singing the words I've known since I was a child in my head as I stand silently and render my first salute. My heart is pounding. Tears come to my eyes. Maybe I am just tired, maybe my hormones are completely out of wack (I never got a period in bootcamp) but maybe the tears carry a bit of pride too. I am so proud to be saluting Old Glory. I am proud to be joining in a tradition that my family has participated in since the Revolutionary War. I feel it is a priviledge to be able to salute our flag, to render honor to our flag as only those of us in uniform can. The music stops and I drop my salute. The music sounds "carry on", I about face and start to march again: right, left, right, left, right, left............
That was many years ago but I remember that salute today, the 229th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. I watch the Colors parade forward. I hear the band play "The Star Spangled Banner". I stand at attention in my green sparkly dress and raise my right hand to cover my heart. I once again have tears in my eyes as I look with pride at my husband and a 1,000 Marines like him decked out in their Dress Blues rendering honor to our flag. I am proud of them all and perhaps a bit envious because now my right hand can only go as high as my heart.
(there is more to this, but I can't make it fit just now)
to both you women who also shared to heal. Your stories you can tell are as raw as it gets. You could feel your words. Thank you for that.
blueviolet~ thank you so much for the encouragement. I have to admit it is very hard to share such deep feelings with pll out in the open like that. My dh and I have never even spoke about the fire like that with each other. He asked to read this . He cannot finish it. It was been healing in the form of release. Those feelings that I have been harbouring too scared to relive have come out instead of continuing to fester. I have MDC and this writing group to thank for that.
P.S~ I think you can still join us. Maybe PM Tanya and ask?
Fire burnt our trailer down when I was in sixth grade. Or rather, fire burnt down my pig farmer stepfather’s trailer. That time is so dark in my mind I have to look in the shadows to find the story. “How did it happen,” I asked Barb (she was my step grandmother, she suggested that we call her “Barb.”) As we drove past the trailer, I asked another question, “Where’s my mom?” I don’t remember her answer. “Was she there when it burnt?” “I don’t know,” she said.
My stepfather, Greg, and my mother had been fighting which was nothing unusual. After the fire we moved. It seemed to better for a while. I had so little connection with that place, in so many ways it was good to see it burnt. Unfortunately, it could not burn the memories.
The image of seeing my mother wasted drunk after hosting a party for all her burnout friends on Labor Day still remains. My brothers and I were allowed to ride the appaloosa, Dixie, around the yard unchaperoned. It seemed fun until the horse bit me and it got dark. My mom came in and passed out on the couch. I was trying to talk to her, “Mama, wake up! You are so drunk. You stink." The smell of liquor oozed through her Indian brown skin. "I hate you. I hate this place.” I screamed. After we went to bed others came in. It seemed that the party lasted all weekend, and like zombies they were filing in to be buried alive. The walls were so thin (no wonder they burned so fast) I heard my mother’s friends Sonny and Mickey grunting in the living room, I knew what they were doing. The next morning, I woke up to sunlight streaming in the windows, highlighting the aftermath: full ashtrays, bent spoons, and candles. I didn’t know what the spoons were for, but my young mind figured it had something to do with terrible drug use. I hated that place. I hated what it made me. The only thing I miss that burned was the clarinet that my grandparents bought me when I had lived with them in Alaska the year before, and the hippopotamus stuffed animal that my first stepfather had given me when I was five.
I look into her small 'o' of a pupil of her eye dancing and starlit amber with her strong willowy body and secretive keyhole bellybutton staring at my open gaze eye bellybutton from motherhood open with nothing to hide behind. She behind her soul so light intriguing you have fallen in love with her soul instead of mine and I try not to compare the outside dissemblences and in all comparisons I falter. The fine wool muted and silk feminine flowing softly, clinging lightly smoothly beckoning your caress, my tired cotton sturdy wrinkled on my rumpled breasts and belly. She the bright flame dancing on the logs you feed, I the smoldering ember suffocating in gray ash spent, no patience to make the kindling, oh reignite me.
Charmarty, Heatherdeg - your stories touched me deeply.
Northport - I enjoy the flow of words in your poetry.
Blueviolet - I'm sure you can join us late. What's the harm?
Violafemme - Wonderful writing, such pride!
It is really hard to put raw emotion down in writing for everyone to see. It's like laying your soul bare. I appreciate everyone's stories and hope I can dig deeper for this assignment. I have a lot of stories locked up inside. Expressing them in writing is not easy for it faces me with the truth and I am forced to deal with issues I have chosen to bury and ignore.
I never wanted pity. I was always ashamed for anyone to know the truth about my family. That's one reason I was so happy to begin a normal family of my own--no one to ask what do your parents do?, etc. Now, when the stories come out, it is better when they are written in the guise of fiction. I wrote a short story based around this time period in my life and I was able to deal with feedback about it much better. I am uncomfortable with the whole feedback thing. Even just a simple statement such as "yours is a sad story" somehow bothers me. I don't know why.
It's hard for me to remember the names with the stories, but they all hit me very hard. Some incredible writers here. Do you think being a mommy makes us somewhat more able to control our emotion enough to channel it here? Like the responsibility of it enables us to come down from just "feeling" and let us put it into words?
And it's so strange how each of us writes about such very different things, and still they provoke such vivid images.
It's never been hard for me to dump raw emotion on paper--but I have NEVER shared it.
And zenfulmama... I have a similar past--and like you, I never wanted pity. I never talked about it because it always provoked the "I'm so sorry"s and "Aaaaawww"s that drove me insane. I know exactly how you feel when people do anything in any way, shape or form that resembles sympathy for the past. I can't stand it. My past was what it was and it made me who I am today--someone I'm incredibly proud of. I'm guessing you must feel the same. Kudos to us who make it through and CAN begin a normal family instead of repeating the cycle.
1982 was the year I was admitted to the hospital. I only stayed there one night, but I was terrified. I cried and thrashed around when the people dressed in white inserted the large needle in my arm. I called the nurse I don’t know how many times so that I can have someone else there in the dark with me. I sniffled for hours, staring at that door for someone to come take me home. What was happening? I was feeling sick, when I peed it hurt, but this was far worse. Being abandoned, left alone. I felt sad, terrified, like an alien being dissected by earthlings. I wanted my father. I needed my parents, my grandmother. I was five years old.
The fire in my soul is not yet dead
Even though you can’t see it in my eyes anymore
The ember is still there
I will fight for what is mine
I will claim what was denied me
I will seize the torch that fell
I will carry it high, defend it mercilessly
For one day, not too far away, I will need to pass the torch
And the fire will be blazing
The softest touch
Like water, I feel tiny fingers brush up against me. If I pay close attention, I can even feel the touch of his toe against my belly. His tongue tickles my nipple in an upward notion while his fingers turn to lightly caressing the other nipple. He’s in rapture, I’m amused. Someone who didn’t like to be touched too much now is being touched what feels like all day, either by baby or husband. And I actually like it. I cherish the moments baby and I have together because I know he’s already a toddler and soon won’t want to nurse anymore. I already mourn the day, the day I will have to part with the softest touch.
The softest touch...
I spent the day before preparing you. Tomorrow morning Mama has to get up early. A taxi will come and take me to a meeting. It'll be just like I'm at work, only a little earlier. And I'll be home a little later. When you and Grandma are finishing quiet time, I'll be back.
You gave all the usual arguments. Don't go Mama. They don't need you! I need you!! I'll miss you. I want to come with you. Stay home.
Dh warned me the morning would be torture. You crying, holding onto me. I laid out my killer red dress, my high heeled shoes that would make me tall, a pair of pantyhose, rarely worn, with no holes, a bra...when's the last time I wore one...gathered my papers, and went to bed, thinking positive.
I woke gradually to nursing. A change of side. It's almost 6:30, Dh said. I hoped you'd nurse back to sleep and I could slip away, unlikely as it was that you'd sleep through my scent leaving the room. You nursed and nursed but did not go through that slowing and weakening of suck that shows you're going back to sleep. I looked at you in the darkness. Your eyes were open. You were smiling at me.
Good morning smiley.
You got up to help me get ready for my meeting.
No, she got up to keep me from going, but she was willing to go along with this game. She sat up in bed. “I'm got up to help you get ready for your meeting!”
She was brave while she helped me set up her breakfast, write a note of instructions to Grandma, and get dressed. She was brave when Dh carried her to the door to see me out to my taxi. She was brave when she kissed and hugged me and noserubbed me goodbye and turned her cheek so I could press my face to it, and sniff her, before I left. The softest touch.
I have always been afraid my home would burn. When I lived in New York City, I was finally at ease in my bed at night when I lived in an edifice of concrete and firewalls that were real firewalls, not computer firewalls. When I left the land of apartment buildings, I hoped to find a house made of stone, rather than of wood.
I have joked about it, because that's the only way I could talk about it all. Before the last time, there were many other times.
This is not the first time I've had a black cat, not the first time I've healed with plants, or with my hands. Today these things are considered amusing quirks, but not always. Once, in the verdant pastures of Britain, or Ireland, or Scotland, or Salem, these were the sure signs of witchcraft.
Not quickly, in a conflagration like in the movies, but slowly, with green wood slowly increasing heat biting first at your toes, then your ankles, until you'd scream in agony for hours, from the pain, from losing your chilren, and for them losing their mother, having to watch each other as the flames strained for life, taking your flesh for their strength, and your neighbors, ones you probably healed, stood there with their smug faces, screaming back that you are getting what you deserve. Burn witch, burn.
A defining moment...
I think of the big moments, but the times my life has really taken the twists and turns that have defined it's course, is in small, almost random decisions.
Like the one I made to take up horseback riding. Because my boyfriend complained that there was nothing to do where I lived, which meant that every weekend I should be the one to commute to him in New York City. Never mind, we should have been able to be happy together anywhere, but that's another story...
I lived in an area a colleague called a haven for the very weatlthy, and the doing pretty well but poor in comparison. I had a pretty 4 room co-op apartment on the grounds of what had once been a grand estate. There were several stables nearby, where the elite kept their horses and elite little girls took riding lessons.
My boyfriend rode horses, so in the interests of developing my ability to do this along with him, at these very stables near my home, I signed up. Little did I know, this was the pinnacle action that would do nothing to further my closeness to my boyfriend, but would eventually trot me right to my husband's arms.
But first, I had to be injured. I was riding Erin, the docile horse for beginners. We were trotting along merrily. Suddenly, Erin stopped and lowered her head to take a nibble of grass. My body did not stop. I felt myself about to head right down her neck and off of her. I had a flash of myself head injured in an intensive care unit. I tucked my left thumb into the reins and leaned to the left to grasp the fence right nearby. Then Erin started her trot again. I was half on the fence. My thumb was in the rein.
Not a life threatening injury, but my thumb looked funny and hurt too much for me to see if it moved. I already disliked the muckiness and the bounciness of the horseback riding, the way Erin totally ignored my kicks, and now all I could think was, this relationship booster was not worth the trouble this injury will cause.
The next day I went to work and showed it to one of the orthopedic surgeons. In the dim hallway light and in the five o'clock shadow he wore at 7:30 in the morning, I could see his grim expression. I'd torn an important ligament. My thumb would never be the same. It would cause me some bit of trouble doing procedures. There was nothing to do for it other than splint it for 10 weeks while it heals. The bright side was I'd never be caught by suprise by the rain, because I could count on getting arthritis that would cause pain before every storm.
We had a former chairman, professor emeritus, who offered me acupuncture. Sure. Ten weeks later I took off the splint and had therapy. A few weeks later, my hand was perfect. I could hardly remember which hand I'd injured. And there I was, director of the pain clinic, and I couldn't do that for anyone. So I told my chairman I was obligated to learn acupucture.
He agreed to the principle, but wouldn't give me the time off for the program I selected. When he was on vacation, I learned about another program that was on a different schedule. Admission was almost closed. I applied for the program and by the time my chairman returned, I was in and had paid my deposit. Now he had to let me go.
I got to the course, jet laggy, and tired. I was still recoverying from emergency surgery for a sudden life threatening condition. I was a little late the first morning. I entered the large conference room, full of mostly men, a few women. In the back row, tipping his chair on the back legs, was a lanky guy nonchalantly running his hands through luxuriant hair. Our eyes locked. He looked like a surfer. There was an empty seat next to him. I turned my gaze a little further toward the front of the room and went to sit next to someone less – less – well, someone less --- I don't know. I didn't know, had no idea, no clue, never would have imagined what I know now, that in that moment I walked away from the really cute guy whose hair looked like gold in the sun, who looked like the sort who could have anything in the world he wanted, but who I didn't know sat there having lost his dreams and trying to take his life back, that I was walking away from my future husband.
It was quite a while after that first glance at each other, that we got together. Still, though it turned out our paths almost crossed many times before, I might never had met him had I not one day drove past a stable while pondering my boyfriend trouble, said to myself, maybe I should learn to ride a horse.
Fire. I think that woman is on fire, I mean I know she is on fire but does she mean to be? She isn't screaming or rolling; she looks like she is trying to dance. A tiny figure in all those orange flames stumbling and arcing her arms. A policeman runs up and puts his jacket on her, pulls her to the ground and puts out the flames. A crowd is gathering. I shake myself loose and walk back to work.
I know who the woman is. She has been a figure on this campus for years. The crazy lady AKA Kathy Change has frequently been here in front of the library dancing her protest of the establishment. Usually she is wearing as little as she can legally get away with. It always looked cold to me, except in the summer when I was a bit envious of her. She wasn't cold today. I thought she was wearing a suit of some kind, but she wasn't. The smell of burning flesh as I made my way back to work told me that she wasn't.
I walk in to the office and say "I think I just saw some one burn to death". Then I walk out. Later the secretary will tell me that she thought I was kidding. I was so unemotional, so detached she thought I was kidding.
I leave work to go to an organ recital at Irvine Autitorium. It's Joe Jackson. He's one of the best organists in the city. A policeman finds me in the middle of it. The secretary told him I saw the burning when he went looking for witnesses. He found me in an organ recital and I leave with the officer in the middle of it.
I go to the police station and give them my statement. I am very matter-of-fact. I show no emotion. "No one moved to help her. She never called for help. We were all frozen watching her last performance. We thought it was a performance. It looked like a performance". It was a performance. The policeman says she left a note, a 30 page note actually outlining everything she was protesting and why she felt that setting herself on fire in front of the library was her only chance of being heard. She set her self on fire to kill herself as a protest against violence. The irony strikes me as painful. She didn't suceed on the lawn. She is in the ICU at HUP now. They will call me when they know more.
I meet my friend Dave at the police station. He's been giving a statement as well. He's not a friend really, he was the roommate of a guy I dated. He was in the library when she self-emolated. He watched from an upstairs window. He couldn't smell the burning flesh, but he could ser charred bits of flesh floating on the breeze of a sunny spring day like some sort of macabre confetti.
We must be in shock. We don't want to be alone so we go to a sports bar. Usually we would have gone to a gay bar or a martini bar, but the sports bar is closer and we want to be somewhere where nobody knows our names. We sit at the bar drinking beer. We don't talk much. We aren't really friends but it's some kind of comfort to be with someone who is seeing the same firery images played over and over in the mind like a silent horror movie. We finish our beer and leave. He walks east and I walk west.
The next day the officer calls. Kathy Change is dead.
My themes may change but my writing pattern always seems the same. I don't find myself writing about my emotions, or my inner experience. I find myself before the computer, transported to other times, immersed right back in the experience.
I don't know if my writing comes across as impersonal, overly objective and non emotional, or if the emotion is conveyed in the stories. What I like about going through the stories, is that they are of things that no camera can ever capture. I'm not sure if this is 'raw.' I could think of more 'raw' things in my life to write about, but I've spent no time on Dh, as I find he is beyond words. So I wanted to spend some time remembering our first meeting and how it came about, for the defining moment assignment.
I am reallly moved by the stories and writing here. I agree with the person who asked, does motherhood open up something that fosters writing. There is an openness to the world that motherhood brings on, so yes, I would say.
I want to comment more, but it's late and I want to wait until I'm awake and better able to devote the attention that is deserved.
I love the lines "unlikely as it was that you'd sleep through my scent leaving the room." and "but would eventually trot me right to my husband's arms."
I also like what you did with the "fire" assignment because of how it comes from place not just part of autobiographical events (in this life anyway) but from a place in your mind/heart. Does that make sense? I like how you went from the concrete world to the spiritual one through the conduit of fire. (I wonder if that sentence only makes sense in my mind) At least that's how it seems to me. I like how your pieces are contained too, just enough information but not too much.
Fire. Fire that burns in my belly. Makes me strong and alive. Gives me inspiration and clarity. Takes some effort to get going but only needs attention to maintain. Circles and licks the edges of intuition. Swirls and rolls through my soul. Orange and red dance together. Swaying and seeing truth. Truth to be told. Truth to be seen. Truth to behold. The fire that burns in my belly I want to nourish and call forth.
I just wanted to get this posted since it seems like I keep missing the weekly deadline.
the softest touch is what I want to pass on. teaching kidness and spreading love.
the softest touch, your hands feel like silk passing across my face.
the softest touch I recieve from any part of your skin. so smooth, sweet, and innocent.
the softest touch is a dance between love and restraint.
the softest touch is your gift to me and my gift to you.
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