I’m supposed to be doing a cleanse this week.
Nothing quacky or dietary-related—I promise I am not going all-juice or detoxifying my elecrolytes or any other form of woo approved only by the Dr. Oz School of Better Health Through Gargling Snake Oil—just a one-week poetry cleanse organized by a writer friend that I leapt to volunteer for. I’ve got too many unwritten words jamming up my brain right now, like rotting leaves clogging a suburban home’s gutters, and an accountability system encouraging me to get at least a few of those words out and on paper each day sounded like just what the doctor^ ordered.
[^Again, not Dr. Oz.]
According to the rules of the cleanse, I agree to write one poem (or bit of a poem, or even one single line of poetry) each day, and send it out to the group by midnight. That’s it.
We’re on day 4 of 7. I’ve managed to write only once.
Sometimes a clog is so acute that low-commitment sluicing is insufficient to break through. Daily venting ain’t enough to get the job done. In these cases, best to take a roto-rooter to the whole situation—and brace yourself for whatever mess results.
And in that spirit, as my offering to the great and terrible gods of Roto-Rootering and Writer’s Clog, allow me to present:
Alice’s Listicle of Things She’d Be Writing About Right Now If Only Her Head Were Feeling A Bit More Cooperative and, Yknow, Language-y
~ ~ ~
1) “I Am Uterus. Hear Me Roar.”
I am still over the moon about the US Supreme Court’s decision this week to knock down two horrifying, egregious, discriminatory, and misogynist Texas anti-abortion laws that threatened to close nearly all abortion clinics in that state. More than half the clinics have already been shuttered following the passing of H.B 2 back in 2013.
This week’s ruling has profound implications not only for women, and others who can become pregnant, living in my home state, but for people nationwide. In her short concurring opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg tied this decision to the fate of so-called TRAP [Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers] laws nationwide, warning other state legislatures that such regulations “cannot survive judicial inspection.”
In other words: Don’t even try it.
Oh please lemme say it. Just this once.
I am dyyyyying to say it.
Okay, here goes.
RUTH BADER GINSBURG MESSED WITH TEXAS.
*grins like a maniac*
I don’t do much hero-worshipping fanfic here on CaaBP—but for the Notorious RBG? Consider me up to the challenge! If I were actually going to write tonight, that is. Please accept this photo of my Justice Ginsburg coloring book instead.
3) Brave AF
[CN: domestic violence]
Something I’ve been pondering lately is the meaning of “brave.” What looks brave to us in other people. What we do, or don’t, recognize as brave in ourselves.
Have you noticed too, how often we admire someone for an act that looks brave from the outside—while the one being commended, from their own perspective, considers it not “brave” so much as having run out of options or energy to do anything else? I have been on both sides, the admiring and the admired, often and recently. I am fascinated and have no answers.
When I think of what constitutes “brave,” I never see my own face.
Twice over the past few years, I have stumbled by chance into an opportunity to directly help a woman fleeing a batterer. Women who are ashamed, and desperate, and terrified—and free.
I will never forget the woman I met this spring, as I helped her get to a train station for the next leg of her long journey to the shelter that had promised her a bed. She talked a mile-a-minute, her eyes darting about, hyper-vigilant of her surroundings even as she began allowing herself to feel hope. She paused a moment on the sidewalk, took a deep breath, and turned her face to the sky.
“It gets better now, right? Everything gets better now?”
I nodded slowly. “Everything from this moment forward—is YOURS.”
She turned towards me, her face shining triumphant.
4) Paying It Forward
[CN: suicide attempts]
As I was buying this same woman her train ticket, and handing her the cash she would need for the cab ride that came next, she asked several times for my address. She would, she swore, pay me back just as soon as she was able.
“Here’s how you pay me back,” I said. “First, you focus on you. You get well. You get back on your feet. And someday—when you’re ready, when you’re able—you are going to help someone else. You are going to pay it forward.
“That’s what someone said to me too,” I told her. “When I was at my lowest, someone helped me. Someone helped me so I could be here today, helping you.”
Three years ago, June was the month when I knew I had to die. When I laid down my life three times, only to awake again each morning, my floor freshly covered in bloody vomit I didn’t remember heaving. When, frantic at my failures, I finally called my oldest friend—who bought herself a ticket out on a red-eye flight leaving that night, even as I was still telling her what was happening.
“You don’t have to worry,” she would later shush me, when I wondered how to ever pay her back. “You are going to pay it forward, when you are able. Just like this is me paying forward all the times I got help from someone else.”
Three years still feels too soon to tell that story in its entirety.
Too soon even to make sense of all that happened.
But not to soon to have started paying the gift of my life forward, every chance I get.
5) Why I celebrate Independence Day on June 30th instead of July 4th
Five years ago, June was the month I took a bus from Philly to NYC, met up with the man I had met and married seven years before (in what would turn out to be our very last encounter, though I didn’t realize it at the time), and signed the papers for our divorce.
Last year, the city even helped me celebrate by painting brilliant rainbows into the crosswalks in my neighborhood!
Okay, so maybe not so much for me as to commemorate LGBT activism and that week’s achievement of marriage equality.
Still looked pretty damn cool, though.
6) The Gay Divorcée
I have not dated in the five years since my divorce*. I have not wanted to date. I have not believed it was possible for me to ever want to date again.
And yet now, today—drum-roll please—I am willing to concede the probable possibility that spending an evening in the company of another human being, as both of us partake of romantic feelings, semi-formed intentions, and/or snacks…does not in fact sound like the worst idea in the world’s history of bad ideas!
Take that, crippling relationship-phobia!
In fact, I have already decided my new standard for what makes a date “successful”: if I can get through the evening without upchucking on my shoes? Then it went well.
My date’s shoes neither?
[*Unless one counts as a date that one time I went for coffee with a dude I met on OKCupid. Which I totally and completely don’t. Though it totally and completely was.
Maybe I’ll tell y’all that story one day, provided I can find a way to make it come across not as the embarrassing sequence of weirdnesses it actually was, but rather as a resonant tale of how to tell when one is—or most decidedly is not—ready to date again, post-abusive relationship. I’m already confident I can tell it so you all laugh at me until your coffee comes out through your noses.
I’m super-generous like that.]
7) Nuh-uh. Still not ready to write that one.
If you’ve been following for any length of time the unfolding of my memory project and the personal stories I share here, you may have noticed that I talk more gently about my mother than anyone else in my family.
Or…maybe you haven’t.
Maybe only in my own head is this blog written as a love letter to my mother, a pleading with her to please please see events from my perspective…and forgive me for no longer being willing (or able) to act as a lockbox for family secrets she wants hidden even from herself.
It’s not that I’m not angry. It’s that owning the anger that I feel towards my mother—and recording it in a way that seems fair and respectful towards both of us—continues to feel complicated and fraught in a way that anger towards, say, my father or my ex-husband does not.
I have been drafting and redrafting a certain mother-story for years now. I may share a version of it someday; I may never.
8) Gratitude Beatitudes
I love the idea of noting at least one thing each day that I am grateful for.
There are many ways that people maintain this practice of deepening their attention to small gestures and details, of practicing compassion and generosity to themselves and the world around them. Gratitude journals. Gratitude letters. Memories jotted on slips of paper and stored in a jar. Giving at least one sincere compliment each day.
Should I ever evolve into a person with the patience to commit to such a project, I promise to gratitude the hell outta my daily grateful.
9) So, uh…got any poems yet, Isak?
10) . . .
11) . . .
12) . . .
*shuffles back to her drawing board*