let us soften

September 22, 2016 § 1 Comment

Fear, anger and uncertainty are escalating, and lately, I find myself caught between extremes of being scared shitless, profoundly sad, and trying to hold onto enough courage to stay present, listen, and take action.

But this I am certain of:

Abusers and misogynists and bigots count on our silence. They count on our fear. In our silence and fear lies their opening for greater intimidation and exploitation.

PLEASE do not allow yourself to be silenced. We have struggled to claim our voices and no one has the right to shame us for having found them. In telling our stories and claiming our voices we’ve had an epic impact in claiming equal rights and will continue to do so until equality holds all our names. Please let us not become divided against ourselves and retaliate with assumptions, combative words and aggressive actions. Please let us go out of our way to help each other and convince each other we are resilient and extraordinary. Please let us stay the course, however uncertain, and raise each other up with gentleness, sensitivity, and love.

PLEASE let us soften, and trust our fundamental goodness.

 

 

 

 

 

This Is Who We Are

June 13, 2016 § 8 Comments

who we are

(in response to the mass shooting in Orlando, Sunday morning, June 12th, 2016)

This is who we are:

WE are thousands lined up to give our blood to the wounded.

WE are first responders, grief counselors, doctors, nurses and friends who carried dying friends and lovers out of a bloody nightclub.

WE are millions of human beings who cried and screamed and raged and hugged and spoke up yesterday as if we’d lost our own children, friends and lovers.

We are millions who love our LGBTQ sons and daughters and friends and lovers fiercely and don’t you dare hurt them again.

WE are the president who declares WE WILL STAND TOGETHER IN SOLIDARITY, NO MATTER RACE, GENDER, RELIGION OR SEXUAL ORIENTATION.

WE are millions who are profoundly sorry we didn’t’ wake up sooner, who are only now recognizing the sleep in our privilege, the blood on our own hands.

We are millions signing petitions, calling legislators, voting, protesting, writing, painting, filming, creating, and speaking up to stop the bleeding.

WE are millions who won’t stop loving each other hard, until everyone is safe and sound.

We are survivors desperately trying to find a language that might somehow bring us all a little closer together.

THIS IS WHO WE ARE.     -anna

trust your writing

March 30, 2016 § 2 Comments

girl writing

 

trust your writing.

 

even if you don’t want to go there

even if you don’t know where the beginning is

or the middle or the end

 

even if it’s hard

because there will be days

when it’s fucking hard

 

that thing you want to censor?

don’t

 

that’s where your art lives

 

writing is a a powerful thing

allow it to take you somewhere

allow it to care for you

 

trust your writing.

 

September 25, 2015 § 5 Comments

red pencil

 

dear sweet writer who recently dipped your pen back into the word waters and joined a writing group—i know you were nervous because it was your first writing group ever…i know you were worried about your grammar and that your 8th grade English teacher with her BIG FAT RED pen still loomed large on your shoulder, ready to stab your incorrect use of “its” (gasp!) and your overuse of adverbs (double gasp!)—her relentless scrutiny feeding your self-doubt—but let me tell you,

we are not her.

we heard the shooting stars in your story, we felt the sentences that sang a new perspective, we witnessed what mattered to you and we thank you for taking the chance with us. we’ll read your stories as clean or dirty as you bring them to us… and when you are ready, (and there’s no rush) we can help you refine them too…but only you can tell your story and you did it today, beautifully.

 

 

Aylan

September 9, 2015 § 11 Comments

aylan playingaylan picture one nmKxpUfkcTwBJcQ-800x450-noPad

For the last few weeks I’ve had a recurring dream: I’m in bed and hear loud voices in my living room. I rush out to a crowd of unfamiliar men and women dressed in semi-formal wear, laughing and drinking cocktails. And, they are stealing things. They are yanking books and photos and souvenirs off the shelves and stuffing them into their bags. One guy rips a photo out of an album and sticks it in his wallet. He shows his friend and his friend laughs his head off.

Then, in the center of the room: Aylan Kurdi’s three year old body. Face down. His red T-shirt. His blue shorts.

I scream, but I can’t. make. sounds. Only gaspy breathy noises. My arms flail. I run to the child. Take his pulse. No beats. Run to the phone. Still. Can’t. Make. Sounds. Only horror breathing. I grab a woman pilfering through my cupboards. Point at the little boy in the red T-shirt. She doesn’t see me or feel me, only shoves a coffee pot into her bag along with my favorite mug. I grab a man plucking yellow tulips from a vase. He doesn’t feel or see me either. No one sees me, see them, not seeing the little dead boy.

To say I’ve been thinking about this dream would be an understatement. It has shaken the hell out of me. Its message of lost/stolen identities blatant. The child’s image making it hard to function at work. I’ve become irritating to others as I try to control minutia because I can’t control the big important things.

People say: AVOID LOOKING AT THAT PICTURE. Their reasons are many and some are understandable—I grasp emotional sensitivities to the core. Yet.

I can’t not look.

I can’t not look because I’ve been a child on the floor in a room full of cocktail drinkers, laughing their heads off while I sit there in bright colors that hide unspeakables. I can’t not look because I am grateful beyond stars for people who reached in and pulled me to safety. I can’t not look because it’s a little boy left. I can’t not look because it’s the only way I know to help bring his voice back.

I’m angry we didn’t get there in time for this little boy. I’m angry this happened in 2015. And…and…I’m determined to stay hopeful, because consciousness is changing…more people are looking and asking questions and getting angry. And when that happens? When we unleash collective anger? Raise our collective voices? A tremendous creative power is released and life begins to change. We find new ways to battle cruelty and injustice.

 Right now, there are people working 24-7 to support insufficient refugee services strained to breaking, while hundreds of thousands more humans are on their way, hoping for a better life, hoping someone will pull them in before they drown.

So even if we disagree with the insanely complicated politics about the right or wrong of all of this, or whether Aylan’s father should or should not have taken his family on that boat—ultimately, it’s about humanity and those who will die today seeking a better life. We have the resources. We are not small, powerless children. We are adults with huge hearts and incredible strength. We can look. We can ask questions. We can respond from the gut. Maybe it will seem futile. Maybe it will seem like we failed? But we won’t have failed because there is monumental meaning in taking action. In the effort, we strengthen our voices and with stronger voices comes truth and freedom.

 

 If you haven’t already seen ways to help, here are a few:

 

Send money:

The UN Refugee Agency: Provides cash for medicine and food, stoves and fuel for heating, insulation for tents, thermal blankets and winter clothing.

Save the Children: Supplies food for Syrian kids and supports education in Syrian refugee camps.

International Rescue Committee: The group’s emergency team is in Greece, where nearly 1,000 people are arriving per day.

World Food Programme: The agency says it is struggling to meet the urgent food needs of millions of displaced Syrians.

Mercy Corps: Refugees are most in need of clean water, sanitation services, temporary shelter and food.

CARE: Reaches Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Yemen and those displaced inside Syria with food, hygiene items and emergency cash. It’s also helping refugees crossing into Serbia.

Migrant Offshore Aid Station: This charity runs independent rescue boats to rescue migrants at risk of drowning.

 

Médecins Sans Frontières: The humanitarian agency has three rescue ships in the Mediterranean.

 

Unicef: The UN’s children’s charity is providing life-saving supplies such as clean water, medicine and psychological support. $10 could provide an emergency water kit for a family.

 

Volunteer

  • The US refugee charity the International Rescue Committee has opportunities to volunteer at all of its 22 offices. Roles include mentoring refugee families and helping refugees find jobs.

 

 

Naked

July 21, 2015 § 22 Comments

pupae

When I first laid bare my personal writing in workshops, I puked before and after each meeting. I’m not talking about exposing my nature poems or opinions on the current state of education—I’m talking about writing with a truth stake driven through its heart.

I puked before the meeting, because I had no idea how the other writers would respond, no idea if they’d appreciate, reject, ridicule or judge. I puked afterward, (even if the critique was good, maybe even more so) because in some weird way, I felt I’d betrayed self, stopped protecting self—I’d allowed the dangerous, naive part of me to dance naked in the streets, arms open, face lit with desire and possibility—I’d unlocked the door of the safe house, knowing she’d run out, knowing she’d get hurt.

And when I signed with an agent to sell my novel?—the story of disrupted identity and power imbalances that might cause people to speculate about who the main character really was, I puked for three days straight.

My therapist told me puking was to be expected. Apparently, I was tearing apart some pretty hard-ass wiring. Apparently, it wasn’t the dangerous, naive part of me dancing naked, it was inner warrior woman, and like pupae ripping from industrial strength thread and bursting through membrane, discomfort was inescapable.

“You’re creating a new person,” he’d say. “You’re acting as if you are worthy. That’s no small thing.” He’d pass me Kleenex, shake his head and say things like, “The dangerous part of you isn’t naked woman or warrior woman. The dangerous part of you is underground veiled woman.”

Okay, then.

He encouraged me to continue putting my voice out there—to say what I felt like saying, in the way I felt like saying it. To consider vulnerability as strength. To trust more. To say “fuck it” to anyone who thrived on tearing down, rather than firing up. To tell myself, “Your voice is beautiful.”

And so. With each new page of writing I exposed for review in groups, with each essay and social media post I didn’t delete, each time I said, “Fuck it,” and “Your voice is beautiful,” I felt less susceptible to harm. I began to taste, feel and smell the intoxication of a sturdier more resilient infrastructure. And as corny as it sounds, I felt different, in a sacred kind of way.

There are still plenty of days I worry about what people think, and my sentences crumple to dust and blow away before I can grab them and hide them under the bed. And there are nights I fail to believe I’m more than a story, rating or ‘like’, and lay awake in a hot sweat, cheeks wet with doubt and shame.

And yet!

I will never again underestimate the power of saying fuck it and your words are beautiful—because it feels like something wrong is slowly being righted.

 

 

 

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