Time to Wake up, Sleepy Head

Time to Wake up, Sleepy Head

When I was 5-years-old, my grandfather, a photographer, decided that the shot he wanted was me, naked, standing on the diving board of his pool in Los Angeles. He took a lot of pictures of me when I was young  – maybe because I was the first grandchild, the first girl. I got caught in his lens a lot. There are pictures of me naked in a bath tub – in one I’m biting my lip, looking up at him shyly.  I’ve gathered the yellow duckies around me so that I’m covering my private parts – that’s what we called them. I don’t know who else was there, who put me into that tub. It’s an adorable shot, everyone loved it. The naked little girl covering her private parts with the ducks. I don’t remember how he talked me into the diving board shot. I don’t know how my clothes came off – whether I took them off myself in the little boat house by the pool. I don’t remember how he instructed me – maybe that he had an idea for a picture and he told me what to do.  Maybe he said it was going to be fun. I don’t think my grandmother or my mother were at home. The only people I remember with us in the backyard were my 4-year-old brother and our babysitter, who were hiding in the bushes laughing at me as I awkwardly stood naked on a diving board on that sunny day in L.A. My grandfather printed those pictures up big, 11 X 17, me standing there, sun in my eyes,...
This Is Me Scrappy And Relaxed

This Is Me Scrappy And Relaxed

This is me just after I’ve woken up, completely unassembled. It’s me before a shower or a workout, me before I know what comes next, before I get all smart and strategic, before I pluck my unruly eyebrows or go after those persnickety chin hairs. Me before I examine my aging skin and do the math on how far till 60 and who will love me then? This is me, face unwashed, hair untouched, same pajamas I’ve been wearing for days. Me before I start sizing up my body and falling into the hallucination that there’s a problem that I need to fix – something about my legs or my ass – if only I could remember. This is me starting the day with nothing except a hope that I’ll make something beautiful out of nothing, that I can conjure magic from scraps, a snip of a dream and a cup of coffee. Me remembering that I’ve got this if I can just relax. This is me scrappy and relaxed. It’s me before I start worrying about whether I’ve taken on too much, whether I should have said yes to the racquetball league on Tuesday nights because I haven’t played in a long time and I’m such a competitive little motherfucker. The thought of losing stresses me out. This is me before I start thinking about losing. Me before I remember the workshops I need to sell and the pressure that come with that, or the classes I’ll run and whether I’ll fill all the seats. It’s me before jumping back into the blog post that isn’t writing itself....
The Middle Way

The Middle Way

After seeing pictures of children in cages, it’s nearly impossible to write about anything else. Even writing that sentence makes me uncomfortable – mostly because to go on living as we do – just the regular stuff; get to the bank, stop by the market, write the blog post, choose the poems, think about summer – all feel, in light of knowing that children are in cages and separated from their parents  – obscene, or as one woman in Wild Writing wrote this morning, “has me feeling complicit.” How, many times over the years have I thought about the people in Nazi Germany who watched as Jews were taken from their homes and businesses, and who turned away and got on with their lives. I’ve wondered about the fall out for them, and what it means to turn away from something you know in your bones is heinous. How the crime of turning away lives in you forever, no matter how you might want to spin it. How that same student from this morning, a mother of two young children, wondered why she wasn’t just selling everything and going down to the border. That’s one option. The other, the easier one, the one most people I know can handle is writing letters, making phone calls and giving money to one of many causes addressing this. We do what we can, and still, I’m thinking about the way we hold it all; children in cages, the suicides of celebrities we don’t personally know, but which dismantle us, news of a friend diagnosed with an incurable illness, the divorce of two...
Why I Am A Wild Writer

Why I Am A Wild Writer

Because in a world that has become even crazier than I can remember, and I hear myself telling friends how busy and tired I am, when making a date with someone can take me weeks, and texting is the new talking, when losing my phone feels like losing an arm, and scrolling the internet is the way I fall asleep at night, and my next romance happens because I swiped right, it’s essential for me to be able to sit down with people knee to knee, to let them see the whites of my eyes and for me to see theirs, as we remember how to use our words and find our voices. It’s true that my Instagram account documents slices of my life, and my Facebook page is seen by my “friends,” but there’s something soul healing for me when I gather around a table with other people, putting our phones away for two hours, and pulling out our pens to tell our stories so we can document what it feels like to be a human being. I Wild Write because not all stories have a beginning, middle and an end and I’m interested in getting to the heart of things quickly, and because I’ve watched hundreds of people zip line their way straight into the core of what matters in 10 minutes. Wild Writing trains us to get out of our own way, to untether ourselves from the masthead of formality and pleasantry and to tell the truth, write it raw, and let go of what other people will think. In Wild Writing, we know that the...
Maybe You’ll Teach Me How to Love

Maybe You’ll Teach Me How to Love

“Maybe you’ll teach me how to love.” That’s what he said to me as we lay in the sparse grass by the creek near his cabin. I didn’t know about that, though I did suspect that I was going to need to teach him about the conjunction of your – as in, your purse – and you’re, as in, you’re going home. I didn’t even know if it was called a conjunction. I don’t know what a conjunction is because I never took a serious English class – but he was screwing it up, was all I knew. * That week I had met two Jeff’s on Tinder, both 54-years-old. He was Jeff from Bakersfield. Jeff from Vallejo and I had joked that when people messed up the conjunctions it was an automatic swipe left. We just couldn’t abide by it. I guess I’d made an exception for Jeff from Bakersfield, whose real name was John, but who was changing it to Jeff. I may never get the story of the name change because I may not get to know the man, but it was worth noting. And let’s cut him some slack because his parents were practically teenagers when they had him back in Bakersfield. Then his mother went AWOL and left him early with his father, and within the last year he’d buried that man who’d spent most of his life drunk. If Jeff from Bakersfield wants to change his god given name, let him. Maybe you’ll teach me how to love. It surprised me that he said that because this man is a leader in the...
What I Tell Myself When I’m Feeling Down

What I Tell Myself When I’m Feeling Down

That everything is actually okay – that your life is practically charmed; You’re not sick, are surrounded by people who you love, and who love you. You have work that is built on words, a career you conjured from air, feathers and wood smoke, a schedule you made yourself, a dog in the yard – buried yes – but a true and loving companion for years. Sometimes you go to exotic places to share your work with others, and every day you sit in circles of women, knee to knee finding new words for sadness, for joy, for grief and love. Your students are generous. Human beings who crack themselves open right in front of you, which you find startling even after 25 years. So much of the time you forget how precious this life is, and you rush around thinking that you have to do even more to be noticed and loved. And then these people you work with unzip themselves and step out of their human casings to show you what they’re made of – same stuff as you – all of us just longing for connection, so many of us believing that we should be more. They think you’re the teacher, but it’s always the other way around. You’re lucky. You have children who are just enough hoodlum to make them interesting, but responsible enough to get to work on time. They’re healthy, they know how to love other people, and even when you broke up their family of four, they kept coming home and loving you both. You’ve got, not just a roof over your...