say yes

When I said yes to hitting the ‘submit’ button to a writing contest last January, the weight of the world lifted from my heart.

The piece I submitted is my #metoo story. The writing of the story was in itself a big leap of saying ‘yes’; I said yes to doing the very hard work of dealing with the trauma of being a victim. The piece was raw and painful and it physically hurt to write.

The first draft was freewriting: I simply let my fingers race across my keyboard and I said what I was feeling and what I remembered. I was able, through writing, to reconnect to the girl that I was. I was able to be present in the pain and the sadness.

The biggest yes came when I realized that I was healing.

I recently began reading the book Hunger by Roxane Gay. There is a passage in the book in which Gay states that her “body was broken”, and she “did not know how to put myself back together”. Gay goes on to say that she is “writing my way back to her”, the girl she once was.

That is exactly what saying yes to writing my story was like.

In a Twitter Q & A recently, Gay responded to a question by stating that you don’t always move past trauma and pain. You learn to carry it forward.

The funny thing is, the minute I hit the ‘submit’ button and entered my story in that contest, I no longer carried the story. It was a part of me, a part of my life story, but it no longer was the burden that had weighed me down so heavily. It no longer was the first thing I thought of when I sat down to write.

I had been set free.

The writing of the piece was very important. The submitting of the piece was critical. In that act, I was telling myself that my story mattered. That it deserved to be seen, that I deserved to be heard. It was the best thing I had ever written, in all its rawness and truth. It was the most honest and most painful truth I had ever told myself.

The piece made no traction in the contest. And I am totally at peace with that. The point was not to be recognized; it was to set my story free.

I have reworked the piece, weaving in bits and pieces from the trial judge’s statements. It contrasts the sanitized legal wording and the judge’s sympathy for the perpetrator against my view from the inside.

This new version is an equally beautiful, haunting, sad piece of work as the first.

I hit another submit button and I feel buoyed once again. I am happy to pay $25 once a year to give the universe an update on how I view my story.

It is no longer a stab in the heart; it has become a point of pride.

say yes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

all that matters is what you leave on the page

I was all ready to write a blog about writing – or rather the big uptick in my ability to prioritize writing.

And then I got into a live chat with Bell about my internet bill. And now all I want to do is rant.

Ranting has been no small part of my blogging experience to date.

I’ve written about education issues, specifically special education funding (on several occasions), violence in schools, the importance of voting, and a reality check for the Wynne government about what life is really like for Educational/Teaching Assistants.

We all pay too much for the internet. We all are with companies who by and large have sub par customer service.

Rant over.

Writing, on the other hand, is something I’d like to stand on the rooftop and shout about.

I am enrolled in a writing class through the University of Toronto which means deadlines and assignments and all sorts of parameters to make my big daily resolution to ‘prioritize writing’, well, a priority.

This week, there were readings, daily writing exercises and an assignment. There are three discussion threads going and this is the most engaged group I’ve been ‘in class’ with in all the courses I’ve taken. People really want to be here.

It’s been a great week of writing.

Another big support for writing is a writer’s group in Toronto. I head to east Toronto every Friday afternoon and write (or read, or think) for 3+ hours. There is complete silence, other than the occasional pouring of a cup of tea (which in a very quiet space is quite loud). For a brief bit at the end, we chat.

It’s been a great month of writing.

A final act of prioritizing writing is to create a permanent space in the house for writing. And that was the easiest part – we had all the pieces and I simply had to pull them together.

I know that not every day or week or month will go this well. And there’s been definite struggles. I could not find the words to describe the snow outside this morning (and not because I was up til 3:30 a.m. – I simply could not find words to capture the beauty).

Writing is hard and illusive.

And wonderful.

***

One of the readings from my course this week is by Zadie Smith. The article, Rules for Writers, is from 2010. Smith’s rules are an interesting mix, and one speaks strongly to something I am slowly accepting: “You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page.”

all that matters is what you leave on the page

Simple, but not. I am in the stage of leaving everything on the page – freewriting and letting the thoughts pour out. Editing will come later and will help me only leave behind the words that really matter.

Stay tuned.

daily resolutions

I am not a New Year’s resolution maker. I’ve always felt it set me up for failure.

Instead, I’ve always been a promise maker.

I promise to not eat those empty calories. I promise to get more exercise. I promise to get more sleep.

If I commit to something for other people, I am guaranteed to show up. But for myself, well, I do not have a great track record in the keeping promises to myself department. So that too was a failure waiting to happen.

Going back to university was a big learning curve around not having destinations, but journeys. So, I’ve changed tactics and gone big and gone small.

I am setting big journeys with daily resolutions.

I want to make writing a priority. That’s the journey.

The steps along the way include a writing course and a weekly work space meet up. The daily resolution is scheduling in the time.

I want to have fewer celiac episodes. That’s the (life long) journey.

The steps along the way include taking the diet right back to the basics. The daily resolution is journalling everything I eat, looking for clues. 

In 56 years, I’ve learned a thing or two. And one is that tomorrow is another day. A day where the journey continues and you can begin again.