By Jen Pastiloff.
For Lidia Yuknavitch, my teacher, my heart sister, my friend.
I haven’t blogged in a while so here I am. Hi, hello, hi. I’m in Los Angeles, here at home for a few days before I hit the road again for more workshops.
A few weeks ago, I led a retreat in Ojai, California, with Lidia Yuknavitch, who wrote The Chronology of Water. The Writing & The Body Retreat. And yes, it was everything you’d imagine- and then some. And yes, we are doing it again in September.
In my own workshops, I ask people to write about the things that get in their way and the fears they have and what they are afraid of. I ask them to write and share about all sorts of things. That’s why the subtitle is On Being Human. It is not a “writing” workshop, per se, although there’s writing. Mostly, it’s about what it means to be a human being. They laugh and cry and let the snot fly, as I like to say.
And then I always ask this: Now what? Now what?
So you wrote about it and shared it out loud and you may “want to be a writer” and you may not, no matter really, what really matters is this: what now?
Writing and sharing is hard, and I think a pretty big deal, but you can write until you are blue in the face and go on retreats and camps and workshops and whatever but what are you going to do?
This is where I get stuck.
I talk a good talk.
But then I sit here and stare out the window all day.
So, when Lidia gives a prompt that is so similar to what I ask except she asks it in her Lidia-esque way, I know that this woman is my heart. She asks the group what was main thing was that was getting in their way. I participated in this one.
What was getting in my way? She asked us to write down the first thing we thought of.
My own self gets in my way. Me.
Then she gave this exact prompt, and this is really where I knew I loved her for life, “And here’s what the fuck I am going to do about it.” We had five minutes.
This is what came out of it for me. This is my Now what?
And here’s what the fuck I am going to do about it. I’m going to, I’m going to, I’m going, there’s so much I promise, so much future, so much that has not yet happened.
My self is in the way. My beliefs about the way I am. My anti-beliefs. The things etched into my skin that I think the world can see but really which no one can and which no one gives a shit about anyway. (It’s worse than you think, they’re not thinking about you at all.) I have things I want to say, things I must get done, yet I’m incapacitated most days and I simply pace, walking back and forth in front of the window, in the bathroom, back and forth in front of the refrigerator.
What do I want? A bite of chocolate, a bite of yogurt, close the door, open it again, a bite of hummus, I’m so full, ugh, open it again, a hard boiled egg, a spoonful of peanut butter, pacing, falling asleep, the day is gone.
My anti-beliefs: I am not smart enough, I can’t finish anything, I am bad.
Anti-anything, anti-anything, and I, and I, sounds like anti.
And I am in my own way.
Anti-in my own way.
Here’s what the fuck I am going to do about it: I am going to stand in front of the refrigerator and talk to it. I am going to tell it how I feel, and what the handle feels like in my hand, and what I smell, and how the juice from the kraut spilled on the floor and I didn’t bother to clean it up and how I don’t know what it means to be full and how full I am and I’ll take all those words and sit down with them and my anti-beliefs and my and I beliefs and I’ll try and create something.
And I will.
And I will probably get up again and eat or sleep or look at my scalp in the mirror, at how patches of my hair are missing, but I won’t pull any more out. I won’t grasp at the mirror in an effort to crawl inside of it.
I’ll sit back down somewhere and even though I can’t type and my anti-beliefs are crowd funding. I’ll write words, and strings of sentences and I’ll speak, I’ll make, I’ll keep making.
And one day maybe my own self won’t be as much In the way as it will be The way.
Featured image by Gabby Oltean.