In September, 2016 I started a year-long personal challenge of doing something each week that I’d never done before then writing about it. This is week 18.
We chose not to march with our feet this weekend, the twenty or so strong women and three thoughtful men. Instead we sat in a hotel conference room and listened to writers Lidia Yuknavitch and Pam Houston’s wise words about stepping into who we need to be, about moving through the world with a careful, gathering eye. Over the course of a few days, we wrote and listened and talked and laughed and fell a little bit in love. I got oversocialized and over caffeinated. I got a little scared and a little sad and a little tired as Lidia and Pam guided us in ways to find the stories we each need to tell.
It seems that every few years I need to make direct eye contact with Lidia in order to have her stare down the self-doubt in me with her fierce, loving gaze. She did it not only with me, but with everyone in the room. Her belief is a powerful, uplifting thing. New, raw stories were being pulled from our ribs and bellies and backs. And in that space it was also clear that we could fiercely love each other as well, or at least each other’s stories (basically the same thing, right?).
To be honest, I don’t know if I made any bonds that were that deep. We’ll see. But if not, it was only because of the pace at which I move. Too many new people in too short a time. Social overwhelm got me before I could slip into the deeper realms of conversation. And then, suddenly, it was late Sunday afternoon and time to go. Time to step into myself and all the stories that self has to tell.
Here’s one of them, a little devil of an assignment Pam gave us that involved writing a piece no more than 300 words that included the following: a New Year’s resolution, a Mustang or a mustang, the name of a Mountain Range, a reference to a seventies song, comfort food, and hope. If so inspired, you can write one too and send it as a submission to this writing contest. For Lidia’s Corporeal Writing workshops go here.
Lately, it’s Saxondale in the morning: Steve Coogan as an exterminator in suburban England who drives a yellow Mustang and waxes poetic about his days as a roadie for Floyd, Deep Purple, Queen (not Zep, never Zep). With the bad weather, my resolution to watch less TV fell apart. The plan was to go back to radio news over breakfast. Or back to talking. But the news is now unbearable first thing and after two decades, our morning conversations barely get us through a piece of toast.
“Another foot in the Cascades,” I say, looking at the weather on my phone.
“My dad’s fine,” Sean says. “He sent pics.”
I wonder. He worries. Was “fine” really fine for an old man in an old trailer under several feet of snow several hours away? The new president reminds Sean of his dad. “He’s the kind of rich my dad would be, given the chance,” he once told me. “Very Lives of the Rich and Famous.”
We turn back to Saxondale and finish our winter-thick bowls of heavily buttered and sugared oatmeal. We double down on humor and comfort. Bowls licked of their sticky sweetness, Sean bends to scratch the cat’s belly until she squeals while I scratch his head until it’s time for him to go.
“Band practice tonight,” he says.
The band is great, but I don’t need live music. As soon as he’s gone, I start my solo disco dance party. I do it to keep warm in my chilly house. To feel the motion, if not always the feeling of hope. Fuck Floyd and Deep Purple. “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” is a great song.
Sean should learn this bass line, I think, as I dance in small circles. Around and around until I’m ready.