I hardly know what to say.
I could tell you about the trip to Mexico for 13 people that I had to cancel last week – three days before we were set to leave – a trip that all of us were looking forward to, that we had made plans for and spent money on. I could tell you about the difficulty of making the decision, even though the media hadn’t really detailed what non-essential travel was a week ago. How sunny it was in Mexico – how the virus hadn’t even exactly gotten there yet. I could tell you about the stress of disappointing people, of making the wrong decision, and the relief some people had that I had made the hard decision for them, how one friend said she was ready to follow me across the border because she was a good girl and didn’t want to disappoint anyone. And how well I understood that.
How sometimes the hardest decisions are the right ones if you listen to your gut.
I could tell you about my 83-year-old mother, Suzanne in L.A. How when Mexico was cancelled, I said, I’m coming to you, and she said, “Darling, I adore you, stay where you are.” Not because she didn’t want my company, but because she was practicing a kind of social distancing before she even knew the term. Decided she would be okay, that she was flooded with friends in L.A. And now of course, it’s mostly just my mom and her yappy dogs, though my sweet brother promises to drop by with groceries.
I could tell you about the FaceTime call she and I had two nights ago where I admonished her, “Mom, are you taking this seriously enough?”
“Oh yes, Darling,” she said, “I’m taking this very seriously,” and promptly put the phone on the piano and began to play and sing with the biggest smile on her face. Not because she was making lite, but because she was becoming light. And the way my face broke open in one of those genuine smiles that almost hurt, as she sang, bungling the words and the chords to some Broadway tune – how imperfectly perfect it was – the sound of her, the joy in her, the painting of my father, ten years gone, that my ex-husband, Mark Wagner had done, hanging on the wall behind her, smiling down on her.
I could tell you about my friend, whose husband has been in the hospital in our town for years, how she has been with him all day, every day for the last five years, how she was suddenly locked out of the hospital last week and had to say goodbye to him, gathering her things and being ushered out. And while she is communicating with him many times a day through FaceTime, she is also finding herself alone for the first time in years and trying to remember who she is, and what she does when she is not caring for her husband.
I could tell you about taking all of my classes online last week – even the class for cancer patients at the hospital – and what it was like to sit together – all of us in tiny boxes on the screen and write and read our stories to one another. How if you don’t have a Zoom account, get one.
I could tell you how, at year 30 of this Wild Writing practice, I saw again how incredibly vital it was to people and to me. A life line. And now, with social distancing, how luscious the simple act of gathering is. How it’s like melted chocolate in your mouth. How we can practically reach out into the screen and touch one another. Hello friend, I see you. Talk to me. Tell me everything.
I could tell you how I told all my Wild Writing trainees not to wait until they got their fancy certificates from me in May, that they should start teaching now, that it’s really about circling and holding space and setting a table for truth and poetry, and how any kind of perfectionism and what it means to teach “right,” has to be thrown to the frogs. That perfectionism is boring right now, because what matters more is connection and love. How one student put up her website in one day, and another starting blogging from her apartment in Florence, Italy.
Nothing like a little pandemic to put the fire under your tush to get you going.
How when I got back from our little market a couple of days ago, I felt compelled to clean my pantry and do laundry and change my sheets. I was bursting with energy.
And the older woman at the market staring at empty shelves and how I asked her what she was looking for and she said it wasn’t there.
Which prompts me to ask, what are we looking for and what is here?
The ads for jeans and face creams that still come into my in box confuse me.
The sound of the garbage truck on Thursday morning comforts me. Some things will go on. I hope.
The posole I made for my daughter yesterday fed us both, and there is enough for Mark when he comes to visit. The fire I lit last night, how Ruby and I sat here in the glow, quietly.
And my youngest, many states away, who promises me that she is alright and will stay put.
And music, all day and into the night.
And the mind which zips around like some trapped creature, sometimes afraid, sometimes calm and steady.
The quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes from her piece, We Were Made For These Times, when she writes at the end, “When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.”
And how now more than ever, I am clear about my work and what I do. I will do more of it. I will write and teach and show up.
Please be in touch. Say hello. Come write with us soon. New classes will be posted in the coming weeks. We need each other now.
I am sending everyone love and peace.
Photo: Suzy at the piano.
Now more than ever, writing is a beautiful way to chart our course through these times. If you’d like to begin your practice today, here are 27 beautiful and short videos to get you on your way.