I went to a writing workshop earlier this week. A friend asked me to come with her and check it out. I was hesitant at first. Why? Because writing workshops are not always fun or constructive or helpful... because writing workshops sometimes force a sense of intimacy that isn't always fun or constructive or helpful... I think you get the idea. I wasn't necessarily looking forward to the writing, but I was looking forward to seeing my friend and the girl talk that followed.
When we got there, the room was overcrowded. All of Boise has been shrouded in smoke from wildfires across the Pacific Northwest and this room was warm and stuffy. And then the guy leading it, a local poet and teacher, started talking about white privilege... everyone in the room was white. He acknowledged this and even so, the conversation felt heavy and abstract. I looked at my friend to see if she felt the same way. She did. As we were leaving she said, man, it felt like grad school all over again, but not really in a good way. She gets me.
But, it was impossible to leave once we were there. And there was a little writing exercise presented at the end and I actually sat there and wrote something down. It feels like it's been too long since I've done that. It felt good to move my hand across a blank page. It felt good to find a string of words and tug on them.
This week has been rough. There was the smoke/allergy/asthma issue. And, between work and teaching, I have felt overwhelmed. I've felt like I have been unprepared for the tough conversations I've found myself in lately... like maybe I need to see a therapist or go back to school to become one... I had an intense and heartfelt conversation with a fledgling non-profit about the trauma of the homeless shelter system that left me hopeful that there are a handful of helpful people out there, but mostly (I still feel) like I am trying to take a sip from a firehose. And in the middle of this, I find myself giving these pep talks to trainees (and students) about not giving up as soon as things start to feel hard and overwhelming... where is my pep talk?
And then there was the presentation I gave at the men's prison out in Kuna where I checked in, stood in front of 24 men who have lived through things I can't even imagine, and talked about what it might look like to make a fresh start. I felt woefully unqualified.
Today, I was at my office which is usually so busy. But, today it was just me and an Intern for a little while. I was enjoying the quiet time when suddenly a homeless man, clearly not sober, rushed in and demanded to speak with me. I asked him to leave. He refused until he could speak his mind. This is basically what he said: "I worship the ground you walk on." Then he turned around and left. The whole exchange lasted about three minutes. Three heart pounding, panic attack inducing minutes. I have no idea where he came from and when he started talking I had no way of knowing whether or not he was armed... The list of things I don't know is exhausting.
So, I thought I would share the tiny bit of writing that came out of the workshop... and I'm really thinking about starting my own writing workshop... one that isn't smoky and crowded and heavy handed... But the thought of another meeting on my calendar is also overwhelming.
Here it is:
Things I Don't Understand
There are a lot of things I don't understand. Like how we elected him and everyone is so outraged. We can't have it both ways. Or, like how we blame God for disasters everyday, but rarely for the beauty in one another.
There are a lot of things I don't understand, but a small handful I do. There are days when I feel like I don't have enough even as I see that I have more than most. And this is the exact moment I should give more - turn myself inside out and back again - not just my pockets.
There are minutes when I avoid eye contact, my fear is too great and my hands too small. This is the very second I should open wide and take it all in. This is where compassion begins. How quickly I forget.
There are breaths I hold on purpose. My voice won't be heard over the billowing of the wild world and there is nothing I can do to tame it, contain it.
There are lots of things I don't understand, but breath and vision, voice and abundance are gifts meant to be shared not like whispered secrets, but as lavish parties.
I'm engraving my own invitation: Let the wild world in.
This is Not the End,
P.S. I also spent my morning baking blueberry muffins for an event next week. I love that I get to make something with my hands even if I'm not writing quite as much these days... my cooking is totally improving, so I've go that going for me.