On resurrection & finding my way back
How do we give ourselves grace when we're struggling?
Yesterday I was interviewed by Jane Ratcliffe for her new newsletter, This is Beyond, a newsletter about Conversations With Heart-Centered Minds (which you should definitely subscribe to!). It’s been a while since I’ve been asked about the work I do and why I do it. I didn’t realize I needed the reminder.
I needed to remember why I resurfaced after being off social media and not teaching after the loss of my nephew in December. What was it that drew me back?
I needed the time off. I needed quiet, to hold my heart, to sit and watch the birds on the feeder. I needed to mourn.
Easter got me thinking about resurrection and what that means.
the action or fact of resurrecting or being resurrected.
the revitalization or revival of something.
Which brought me to this excerpt from “Prologue” by Audre Lorde, From a Land Where Other People Live:
Somewhere in the landscape past noon
I shall leave a dark print of the me that I am
and who I am not
etched in a shadow
of angry and remembered loving
and their ghosts will move
whispering through them
with me none the wiser for they will have buried me
either in shame
or in peace.
And the grasses will still be
I am definitely resurrecting in some ways…but why? Jane’s insightful questions made me realize this…
There’s an energy that happens when I’m facilitating a class, we’re discussing the readings and the topic at hand, a craft element, perhaps. The writers are all in. We’re exchanging ideas. They’re getting revved up so when it’s time to put pen to paper, they surprise themselves with what comes out of them. What they did. They’ve said:
I haven’t written like that in so long.
I can’t believe I did that.
I didn’t recall that memory until I started writing it.
It’s an honor to be part of this process. Jane said I radiate when I discuss my work. This is why.
This is also why I keep creating and facilitating classes, and why I keep them as affordable as I possibly can. I want my work to be accessible. People who are meant to work with me, will. I believe in energetic reciprocity; as Robin Wall Kimmerer writes:
Reciprocity—returning the gift—is not just good manners; it is how the biophysical world works.
Writing Our Lives, facilitating writing classes again, working with eager writers, even those who don’t consider themselves writers yet, are all bringing me back to life, and I am so grateful.
Before the interview, I had a video call with my dear sister friend Jessica, who is also a writer. She got me talking about my grief. Truth is I don’t talk about it much. It’s always there, lurking, though some days are worse than others. Last week I had a day where the grief felt all consuming. It reminded me of the darkness after my brother died. It terrified me. But I still didn’t talk about it. My sister friend reminded me to give myself grace.
I’ve been beating myself about not writing as much as I want to, about feeling blocked with my memoir writing, about so much. I had a loss just four months ago. I am grieving. I need to give myself grace. I deserve the tenderness I give the world.
My sister friend and I got to discussing next week’s class on Epistolary Writing (which she informed me I’ve been mispronouncing 🤦🏽). I shared that when I was in boarding school I’d send out packets of letters every week. I did this for the four years that I was in Wellesley, MA. I also sent my brother weekly letters when he was in prison when I was in college. Still, for some reason I didn’t acknowledge until fairly recently that these letters were a huge part of my journey to becoming a writer.
People often turn their noses up at letter writing as a form. Some don’t consider it literary. I internalized this pretentious mindset for a long time.
The truth is epistolary writing has a long history. It’s probably the most democratic of all genres, something anyone can do and is guaranteed at least one reader. People have written novels, poems, memoirs, essays, short stories as epistles. It’s an approachable way of expression, and a beautiful one, and we’re taking it on next Wednesday, April 27th, 7-9pm.
I was so excited after the call with my friend, I grabbed a pen and paper and wrote her a nine page letter. (Thank you for this gift, sis!) I went out and mailed it immediately because I knew I might not later. Why? Because I let myself be vulnerable about my grief in a way I haven’t. This is the beauty of letter writing.
I hope you’ll consider joining us on April 27th, 7-9pm EST. Suggested donation is $30.
In May I’m launching the All In My Feelings Series. We’re starting with grief, because it feels right and I think I’m ready.
May 4th Writing Grief
May 11th Writing Joy
May 18th Writing Fear
May 25th Writing Rage
I leave you with this glorious poem by Joy Harjo. Happy Earth Day!
For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet
Put down that bag of potato chips, that white bread, that bottle of pop.
Turn off that cellphone, computer, and remote control.
Open the door, then close it behind you.
Take a breath offered by friendly winds. They travel the earth gathering essences of plants to clean.
Give it back with gratitude.
If you sing it will give your spirit lift to fly to the stars’ ears and back.
Acknowledge this earth who has cared for you since you were a dream planting itself precisely within your parents’ desire.
Let your moccasin feet take you to the encampment of the guardians who have known you before time, who will be there after time. They sit before the fire that has been there without time.
Let the earth stabilize your postcolonial insecure jitters.
Be respectful of the small insects, birds and animal people who accompany you.
Ask their forgiveness for the harm we humans have brought down upon them.
The heart knows the way though there may be high-rises, interstates, checkpoints, armed soldiers, massacres, wars, and those who will despise you because they despise themselves.
The journey might take you a few hours, a day, a year, a few years, a hundred, a thousand or even more.
Watch your mind. Without training it might run away and leave your heart for the immense human feast set by the thieves of time.
Do not hold regrets.
When you find your way to the circle, to the fire kept burning by the keepers of your soul, you will be welcomed.
You must clean yourself with cedar, sage, or other healing plant.
Cut the ties you have to failure and shame.
Let go the pain you are holding in your mind, your shoulders, your heart, all the way to your feet. Let go the pain of your ancestors to make way for those who are heading in our direction.
Ask for forgiveness.
Call upon the help of those who love you. These helpers take many forms: animal, element, bird, angel, saint, stone, or ancestor.
Call your spirit back. It may be caught in corners and creases of shame, judgment, and human abuse.
You must call in a way that your spirit will want to return.
Speak to it as you would to a beloved child.
Welcome your spirit back from its wandering. It may return in pieces, in tatters. Gather them together. They will be happy to be found after being lost for so long.
Your spirit will need to sleep awhile after it is bathed and given clean clothes.
Now you can have a party. Invite everyone you know who loves and supports you. Keep room for those who have no place else to go.
Make a giveaway, and remember, keep the speeches short.
Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way through the dark.
P.S. Jane & I wondered how we met. We’ve been connected online for so long, it seems like we’ve known one another for years, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a face to face conversation. Social media is weird like that, isn’t it? Turns out, she discovered me at AWP in Portland, at the standing only room Writing the Mother Wound Panel I moderated. I discovered her work via her gorgeous essay in The Sun, “The Way Home.” Read it. Thank me later.
"Welcome your spirit back from its wandering. It may return in pieces, in tatters. Gather them together. They will be happy to be found after being lost for so long"
This line reminds me so much of the parable of the prodigal son. Powerful lessons on the importance of connection.
I love this newsletter!! Thank you always for your honesty, transparency and inspiration!!! See you at the Epistolary class!!!!