Posts Tagged #writing exercise

jump into the well of fear

graffiti saying 'jump in do it i did' pointing to water
Prompt: Close your eyes. Breathe. 
Name a fear you have. Breathe again.
Now, write about where it lives in your body. 10 minutes, go: 

My fear is not being understood by the people I love.

This fear lives in the dungeon of my throat. It is the murky water at the bottom of a bottomless well. There is no light here, and so I have to imagine how it looks: like a midnight mirror on a starless forever after. Nothing shines back at me, there are no glimmers of recognition, no waves of love, only swells of anger, churning the black water.

There are military ships crisscrossing the water, painted with lead-based gunmetal gray, their decks studded with heavy guns and heat-seeking missiles in evil-looking launchers.

My fear holds me hostage below decks on the largest of the battleships. I’m in a metal-caged brig in the deepest hold. The light is yellow and blurry and the air tastes stale.

A row of judges sit, dark-robed, heavy browed, convicting me of the crime of being myself. The primary judge is a white-wigged woman with a sharp nose. She addresses me, in a bored tone. “How could you expect to be understood,” she asks rhetorically. “You are not understandable, not acceptable.” She looks at me as if I’m a used tissue someone has dropped. She shakes her head in disgust. “Not understandable,” she repeats.

Like the queen in Alice in Wonderland, she only wants me to lose: my head, my heart, my voice, my confidence. But most especially, my heart.

My heart lies beneath this dark sea, at the bottom of the bottomlessness of this well in the dungeon of my throat. In my panic at being alone and not understood, I’d forgotten where I was. Here, in my body. I remember suddenly to breathe in, and when I do, I turn my gaze away from the judges. I listen to my steady inhale instead of their scornful murmurs. And I hear it. My heart. It is beating, far, far below the prison ship.

Steady dear heart. The dark water glows green. I know this even with my eyes closed, even in the prison of my fears, even as the judges cough and scritchy-scratch their pens across banishment decrees.

My heart swells, filling me with hope. A rising tide lifts all boats, even heart-sinking gunmetal battleships. The fleet of war ships circling my throat dissolves like sugar candy in the warmth welling up.

I think I’m ready to go deeper.

_____

I think about fear a lot. I read about it, too. Fear can literally get stuck in your body. Fear tends to incubate rather than dissipate over time, according to Joseph Le Doux, researcher/expert on the amygdala. Naming your fears and feeling them in your body can help you move past fear.

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my phone case is an asshole

phonecase

My phone case is shiny plastic, scarred now from use. It is the color of a cartoon character’s eyes, the mischievous female sidekick with a heart of gold’s eyes, eyes that sparkle and pop out from the screen a bright teal-y blue not found in nature.

The edges surrounding the black glass face of the phone are a matte-rubbery black, shaped like the buffering edges of the old Carrom pool table in the basement growing up. It’s a sturdy enough case, chosen entirely because it was on sale at Meijers and I did not want to wait for one to come via Amazon. I just bought what was on sale, in an okay color I didn’t hate, so I could stop worrying about dropping it.

I didn’t notice that on the back, in raised black emboss, the phone case sports a logo composed of a black asterisk set within the hug of two parenthesis.

I think of Kurt Vonnegut, in his novel Galapagos, where he told readers up front he was going to kill off a lot of people in the story, and to lessen the shock, he would add an asterisk before the character’s name in the chapter preceding their untimely demise.

Vonnegut had a thing about asterisks. In Breakfast of Champions, he includes an illustration of an asterisk and explains it is a drawing of his asshole. Or an asshole, anyway. I don’t quite remember the specifics, just that, ever after, I cannot look at an asterisk without thinking of a puckered anus.

I think of this every damn time I drive past a Walmart.

I imagine a group of designers coming up with the 205th round of logos.
One of the designer is maybe was a big reader.
Maybe she threw in the asterisk, as a joke.

This is how things go. You’re joking, and they take you seriously.
You are serious and they think you are joking.

I think of the little towns, in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, all across the country, hollowing out in their pretty centers, ringed with ugly box stores that you cannot walk to without risking your life.

I wonder if anyone’s ever watched me talking on my phone and thought, “Oh hey! Asshole!”

I wonder if I will ever be able to think of asterisks as I did as a girl, when I read in a book I can no longer summon to memory that aster means star, and that makes me think of skies and night air and falling in love and not finding the book you were looking for, but finding something else entirely.

Of driving as the sun sets and the stars come out, but you are driving too fast to see them until you stop like you did last night, and open the back door for the cat. The house is pitch dark and the sky is covered with stars and the nearer glows of the fireflies.

 

Note: this was a fast write from a prompt in Pat Schneider’s “Writing Alone and With Others,” in which she suggests that if you find yourself blocked, to stop trying to write that novel or poem or whatever it is that won’t come, and instead, choose an object and begin describing it. You can jump from one object to another. What is important is that you choose something concrete, and just go! See what comes up. I picked my phone case and was surprised at where it went and what it brought up. It was fun. I forgot to worry about my novel which isn’t going anywhere!

 

 

 

 

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Back to my writing circle

sky imageWednesday night is writing circle night for me. I write with some amazing, inspiring women, and look forward to it all week. In tonight’s fastwrite, we were invited to take a line from the poem, “Hunger” by Gunilla Norris, and write for 12 minutes to see where the line might lead us.

The title is the line I chose from the poem, and here’s what came up for me:

Light a light so we see the emptiness

Oh, please light a light, I’m so scared and alone down here where I live all by myself, defective and lost. I have no navigational equipment. No radar. Did you know you can be born lost? I was. Lost. A baby never meant to be, stillborn in spirit and left like a foundling, to search the earth endlessly, fumbling in the darkness—oh, please, please—light a light so I can see, really see, the emptiness.

Perhaps the emptiness is very small? Perhaps it is not so frightening, perhaps nothing bad will happen in this tiny or possibly endless darkness?

Perhaps I will just curl up in it, the way that lost bat, hunted by the cats, crawled into the folds of an umbrella overnight. How in the morning, I saw the cats staked out there, by the umbrella stand, and I knew: that was where the bat was hiding.

Imagining the bat flying around my head again, I summoned my courage and picked up the whole damned umbrella stand, big ugly ceramic thing, heavy, containing Totes folding umbrellas, Lydia’s old rice-paper parasol and also an umbrella that belonged to my Swedish grandmother, my farmor, an umbrella that has outlived dozens of cheaper ones. I dumped the mess of it out on the front lawn.

There was nothing there but umbrellas, no bat at all. As I put the umbrellas back in the stand, I peered down into the navy blue tunnel of farmor’s umbrella, and I saw something deep in the shadowy depths. I shook it out, and the poor bat, pathetic and frail, tumbled out, as threatening as a burnt marshmallow. Poor thing. Poor scared, dead thing. I left the bat carcass and the umbrella on the lawn, and headed for my walk. I couldn’t bear to pick it up yet.

Later, as the afternoon sun was shining, I stopped to study the creature. Such delicate wings, such fine fur, almost like brown velvet. A marvel of nature, this flying mammal. As I stared, a wing seemed to shudder, but the grass quivered, too. Just the wind.

I leaned closer. All at once the bat reanimated, surged to back to life like the killer everyone thinks is finally dead in one of those creepy movies that used to scare me. “It’s alive!” I cried out, couldn’t stop myself. But I wasn’t afraid. It was a miracle, this resurrection. A cause for joy.

The bat flew away fast and fearless, into a completely unknown world, no longer contained by an umbrella or a house or frozen up in fear. Off into the blue, alone.

As I’m thinking about a different kind of darkness, and my own ancient fears, I think of that bat, curled in the dark of the umbrella, not knowing when or if she would find her way.

Perhaps I will learn to fly like that, someday.

 

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