Letter to the Inner Critic (11/19/17)

photo of book, confessions of a prairie bitch

Spotted at Dark Star Books

Here’s a leftover I meant to post from my November inner critic letter-a-day challenge (to myself). Uncooked, raw, basically how it came out. Also: in the letter below, where I write “I was born to fly”, I would clarify that we were all born to fly.:

November 19, 2017

Dear Inner Critic,

Well, apparently you are a risk manager and I’m curious what’s the risk? What is it that is on fire? The house already burned down, it’s gone. What are you afraid of? You seem to be afraid I’ll make any noise, that I’ll embarrass you or be noticed (or just seen) and that somehow scares you. You don’t want me to stand out, you want me to fit in & do what the world seems to want safe people to do. But I was born to fly. It’s not a safe thing, but I can try and work and fail and try again. I am a survivor, you know that, and if I fail, or get ignored, or rebuffed, or insulted, I will be okay. I’m stronger than you think I am. Also, I do appreciate your care—I know it’s a twisted kind of caring, the risk managing, the alert and hyper-vigilant posture. I know it’s because you want to protect me. But I need to follow the call and take risks and I need to be allowed to make a fool of myself, and I need to jump off the cliff and trust my strong wings. I’ve been flapping them and practicing with a helmet long enough. The helmet blocks my vision, the pads are too heavy. I don’t need them. I am strong and my body can sustain a fall. Because we work in metaphor and I’m not literally going to jump my unwinged human body off a cliff, I need you to know I’ll be safe, I am safe. I am using my words and my heart for this work, and my body is safe, and my spirit can only be fulfilled if I try and don’t shrink down from your alerts and warnings. I need you to know that I understand the alerts and warnings come from your wounded love for me. How you remember all the hurts and how they feel like they are happening now, but I survived those nasty in the woodsheds, and I can survive what’s to come, so I can do my work, and soar.

I love you.

Love,
Rebecca

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Yet another reason I love teaching

Yesterday my students and I brainstormed on the board to get what poet Cathy Smith Bowers has called the lump of clay to start (writing anything, but in this case) making poems. We got lots of words on the board, narrowed things down and ran out of time so I said I’d write up something which, tomorrow, we will shape into poems (if possible).

Here are the two lumps of clay:

(This one is from the original phrase “burning house” which landed on cat eating tinsel, and there was something about getting attention, and then my cat inspired me in the middle of the night, so timely, so thank you, Zlateh. These line breaks were my first pass/how it came out. We will negotiate all and deal with the repetition, etc. tomorrow.)

Come, cat
come to where the hands are
or dance around the bed half the night.
I don’t need sleep.
It’s fine, but so much simpler if you would come to where the hands are,
or eat tinsel from the tree,
anything, anything to get my attention
but wouldn’t it be nicer
if you came to where the hands are,
to pleasure us both?

Traverse (or travel) the ridge of my body
bleating your needy meow.
It’s fine, it’s okay, I can’t sleep anyway.

Dance around the bed half the night,
the other half, walk the ridge of my body,
bleating your flat meow.
It’s okay.

I can’t sleep anyway.

***

(This one is from the original word “snow” which ended on glitter demon, idolized but evil. This one was extra fun for me, ahem. We’ll see about line breaks & whatever tomorrow in class.)

Glitter-demon

You consider yourself beautiful, all shine and polish and perfection. You stand upon that pedestal with such a casual air, as if you couldn’t fall from there. Every day you are reset, like a piece of machinery, you get up and just start a new day. You claim to be immortal. Silver and gold wrap the warp of your vile insides, and not one of us notices the cruel cutting you do, until it’s too late, until we’re bleeding in the glittery, hard diamond snow of this four-year winter. How much blood and history will we lose without knowing it before we wake up and knock you off that stool. You make me want to hate, if I could. I want you to shatter, I want to shave off all that lying gloss and sparkle, I want you to bleed like we are bleeding, I want instant karma, I want a recount, I want changes of hearts, for all of us, if not for you.

Yoga, Somatics, and Creative Play workshop (Feb. 10)

Dear all,

Melissa Tinker, Amy Chavez and I are again offering this workshop on Feb. 10 at the Antioch College Wellness Center. This is a beautiful, embodied, fun, and healing practice. More information is below…
Love,
Rebecca
Facebook event page:
Details:
Yoga, Somatics, and Creative Play: A Path to Authenticity 

Saturday, 2/10/2018
From12:30 pm – 5:00 pm
with Amy Chavez, Melissa Tinker & Rebecca Kuder
Our lives reside in our memories, bodies, and bones. Using yoga, ReStoryative Somatics (TM), and expressive writing and drawing, we will harvest our inner narratives, becoming authors to our own stories. We’ll support each other in releasing what is no longer relevant or was never true. Please wear clothes for yoga and bring a light snack.
$60 for Members, $70 for Non-members

Silent all these years…

(…which is a line from a Tori Amos song.)

I recently read Roxane Gay’s book, Hunger, which is kind of amazing in many ways, one being its unvarnished truth-telling. Lots of thoughts about the memoir, but today in the words of Roxane Gay (p. 45):

“He said/she said is why so many victims (or survivors, if you prefer that terminology) don’t come forward. All too often, what “he said” matters more, so we just swallow the truth. We swallow it, and more often than not, that truth turns rancid. It spreads through the body like an infection. It becomes depression or addiction or obsession or some other physical manifestation of the silence of what she would have said, needed to say, couldn’t say.”

(fragments of process, & out from under patriarchy…)

IMG_9103

one theme, (at least) thirty variations (from 1971 Women’s Day magazine)

Here’s a piece of too-clever-wordy-nerdy-play-that-doesn’t-fit, torn from an essay I’m writing under the shadow of the toxic patriarchy.

The fragment won’t go back in.

Wanted to put it somewhere, thank it for its service:

Forget/forgive, unfortunate, those words with similar opening: we link them as if they are sisters, but they have so little in common. F-O-R. Three letters. A pile of bones.

(#me too) A raw list…

shadow of writer at Long Pond, Omega Institute, October 2017

shadow of writer at Long Pond, Omega Institute, October 2017

 

…of what’s helping me heal from childhood sexual abuse.

In no particular order.

  1. Dancing. These days, dancing = attending my awesome Zumba class in Yellow Springs. It’s liberating. It’s helping me unwind the long-bound-up energy in my pelvis. When I have a week without Zumba, I feel the lack. The teachers (Gina and Melissa) are wonderful. There’s a room full of women (and sometimes a man or two, too, which is great!), of various ages and colors of skin, and we drop it low low drop it drop it low low… sometimes we cool down to the Beastie Boys. It costs $2 per class; you put your money in the box by the door, the honor system. Close as it gets to perfection. At times, I imagine the room full of dancers as an army of survivors…I say to myself, “okay, predators, I dare you to enter this room. You want your ass kicked? Bring it on.”  Extremely empowering for a “nice” girl who was socialized to be nice and take care of everyone but herself.
  2. Being with other women who understand. I’m fortunate to have many strong and amazing female friends, and lots of people to talk to. Including my mother. The more I talk about it, the easier it gets to talk about. It also helps when I can remind myself that right now, many women are feeling exhilarated about #metoo and the truth-telling, and many are feeling vulnerable & exposed, and both, and yes, and every shade in between. It’s heady, and for me the sensation changes from one breath to the next with all this release of secrets and shame. This collective vulnerability feels new to me. (I know part of the newness to me is because I’m white, so I have felt relatively “safe” in many ways, walking around on the planet during my lifetime, unlike the experience of many people of color.)
  3. And I visit a skilled, compassionate therapist.
  4. Writing. Writing anything, but especially writing about it, in various forms, and writing letters to the inner critic, and writing, because it means I’m alive and I can use my voice. Like now on this blog post. Like when I run into someone later today at the store, and I’m sure something will be spoken, something from out of the shadows.
  5. Breathing. Similar to writing…I’m alive and I can use my voice. Sometimes breathing helps me remember that the past and the future are not real. Just now, this moment, is what’s real.
  6. Listening to (and singing) fortifying songs. Like “In The Roots We Are Together”, by Eleanor Brown, for ALisa Starkweather, which my dear friend Amy Chavez introduced to our circle last year, after that predator was elected president. Please find the lyrics below.

(How are you healing these days?)

Love, Rebecca

IN THE ROOTS WE ARE TOGETHER

by Eleanor Brown

I am still love 

I am still here 

Even in the ravaging crying of a river 

I’m breathing this fire whilst still under water 

I am still loving this heart on dilation 

Unraveling unending keep singing her forward 

I am still love 

I am still here 

We rise and we fall, are we wise or we fools? 

Are we walking us home, are we leaving it all? 

Cracking us open, gold digging down there 

Are we saving our lives, are we great saboteurs? 

In the roots, in the roots, in the roots we are together 

We are here. We are love.

 

Today’s writing headlines

photo of desk

Where I worked today. (Head cup by Beth Holyoke)

MORNING HEADLINES

NONFICTION:

I finished typing up the Bewildering Whatever-it-is begun at Omega with Nick Flynn (and mentioned here). I don’t know what it is or will be. I keep thinking of it as a coil of DNA for a memoir. It’s about 13,000 words. There will be more words as I uncoil and discover itself.

FICTION:

Last night, I dreamt an agent said there’s a lack of confident storytelling in my novel. (When I woke, and did today’s letter to the inner critic, I asked the critic what she does while I sleep.) I don’t think it’s true that there’s a lack of confident storytelling in my novel. Laughed it off.

Within a few hours, I got a kind rejection from an agent who has some very big name clients. (Another agent at her agency, whom I had approached to represent me, had been complimentary about the novel, and on her own initiative, forwarded the manuscript to this big-name agent thinking it might be more her style.) The big-name agent got back to me quickly, and was also complimentary about the novel, said, “It’s full of mystery and atmosphere, poetry, even.” But said she doesn’t think she could sell it. I understand it’s a business. I’m grateful for the kind words about my writing. I trust someday I will find an agent or press who will say YES, and take a risk on my work.

May it be sooner than later.

Onward!

Letter to the inner critic: Day 5 (fragments for the lying liar)

photo of blogger

Imperfection rocks.

(I blogged here about writing a letter to the inner critic for 30 days. You are still/always welcome to join me! Fragments from today’s letter are below. Disclaimer: The inner critic, for me, is many things, and can sometimes be negotiated with and can sometimes be helpful. Today’s fragments focus on the less helpful aspects, because that’s what came up.)

If anyone out there is doing this practice, please feel free to comment on how it’s going! I’ll blog more as we go along.

***

 

5 November 2017

Dear Inner Critic,

I’ve realized something. You’re a liar. You have been so unhelpful over the years…you’ve been the cataloguer and amplifier of lies…have collected trash and shit and saved it to throw at me. Why? …what do you gain by this continual flinging? Does it make you feel better about yourself, or does it make you feel special, or powerful? Real power comes from being wise and kind. Your kind of power is empty and destructive. There’s no need to tear me down, but you have made it your mission. And you’ve found my vulnerabilities and mined them, have become a specialist. I wish you had something of your own so you didn’t feel you have to take mine. It’s an empty life you lead, you’re just a shell collecting bile to toss at me. Until you can get that out of your system, I won’t like having you near me. You keep that in mind. I have beautiful walls that I’m building to protect me from your spewing, and you won’t be able to reach me. The walls are how I shut you out. Maybe someday you’ll get tired of screaming at me.

Love, Rebecca

“Go away, you rainsnout…” NOVEMBER! (30 days with the inner critic)

photo of Gaunt park at sunset

Dear people,

I am issuing a gift/challenge/invitation for the month of November (a month I love to abhor, by way of Tom Waits’ “November,” which you can see him perform here and read lyrics below.).

(If you read this after November, it’s never too late. Start anytime! And this does not have to be elaborate. You can simply do a 2 minute power pose, then write “Dear Inner Critic” across the top of a page, and write a letter. Or skip the power pose—though if you’ve never tried a power pose, it can help you feel stronger as you approach the letter.)

*

Every day, for 30 days, communicate with the inner critic. (If you miss a day, okay. But do as many days as you can.) (If you don’t know what the inner critic is, good for you! You don’t need this practice. If you do need it, read on.)

This work involves free-writing without stopping, without editing. The general rules are to keep writing for a set amount of time (or one page), and if you don’t know what to write, just write the words “tick tick tick” until you get back to what you are writing. If you only have 5 minutes, that’s fine! It can still be very useful. (The “tick tick tick” is courtesy of Lynda Barry, whom I’ve blogged about here.)

OPTIONAL PREPARATION (Not mandatory, but helpful):

DAY ONE: Get paper and pen.

Imagine, describe, SEE the inner critic. (If you watch Lynda Barry’s video, you might think of the inner critic as the mom with the bacon, interrupting the kid in the middle of his playing to say, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”) It’s fun to start by drawing the Inner Critic—use the Lynda Barry method using a random shape, then making it into a monster or character. Whatever works! But don’t think it in your head. Instead, move pen on paper to make the thing come to life (and to get it out of your body). Set a timer for 2 or 3 minutes if it helps. You can describe the inner critic with words if you want to. The point is to somehow embody (on paper) the inner critic. When you’re done drawing or writing the character, take a moment to name this thing.

Then on a new page, write Dear Inner Critic… and write a letter, as long as you want. Sign your name when you’re done. (I’ve done this with young people who have asked “Can I use bad words?” Yes. You can use bad words.) 

DAY TWO (& BEYOND)

Write a letter to the inner critic/monster/thingy every day for 30 days. You can also try any of the activities below if you get bored with letters. But remember, boredom is often good and necessary! I’ve done a letter every day for 30 days. One page at the beginning of my morning pages. (If you don’t know what the morning pages are, go here.) When I wrote a one page letter to my inner critic for 30 days, I arrived at some plateaux where I thought I was saying the same thing day after day (and thought, This isn’t getting me anywhere!). It got a little boring. But I kept doing it day after day, and noticed that things began to shift. I gained some pretty nuanced understanding of the dynamic between “me” and the inner critic (which is part of me, of course, which is part of the point). Among other things.

Alternatives to the daily letter (use any or all, combine, okay!):

  • Write the GIFT that you would give your inner critic. (It’s my suspicion that there is something the inner critic is lacking.) Describe the gift in great detail, how you would wrap the gift, etc. Really give time to What’s missing? What do they need? You might try: Dear Inner Critic, if I could give you a gift, it would be… (What is his/her/their/its deepest unmet need?) (You can also give them something you want to give them, but which they would not necessarily want!)
  • Write a dialogue between you and critic—you get the first line and the last line!
  • Write a physical fight scene!
  • Draw a one-page comic! Color it in! Good, good good!

If you know some friends who want to do this together (every day, or at some point in the month) maybe after you write, someone will want to read back what they wrote. If so, while the person reads, everyone else must draw a slow, careful spiral a la Lynda Barry’s practice, and listen quietly–MOST IMPORTANTLY, GIVE NO FEEDBACK!

Take care of yourself. This inner critic practice can be hard and upsetting, so please do figure out what support you need. It can bring up stuff that might need more time and attention than you can easily give it. Have a cup of tea or some sitting and breathing (or whatever nourishes you) as needed, and be extra generous with yourself now.

Please let me know how it goes! I’m going to do it, too. (Eeek!)

Love, Rebecca

p.s. I’ve written about self-doubt here: https://rebeccakuder.com/?s=self-doubt

p.p.s. If this practice is useful to you, remember: YOU CAN DO THIS ANYTIME! You don’t have to do it for a whole month. Have a job interview? Put the inner critic in its place before you brush your teeth that day! Find the inner critic something else to DO while you do what you need & want to do (without static from the inner critic).

*

No shadow
No stars
No moon
No cars
NovemberIt only believes
In a pile of dead leaves
And a moon
That’s the color of boneNo prayers for November
To linger longer
Stick your spoon in the wall
We’ll slaughter them all

November has tied me
To an old dead tree
Get word to April
To rescue me
November’s cold chain

Made of wet boots and rain
And shiny black ravens
On chimney smoke lanes
November seems odd
You’re my firing squad
November

With my hair slicked back
With carrion shellac
With the blood from a pheasant
And the bone from a hare

Tied to the branches
Of a roebuck stag
Left to wave in the timber
Like a buck shot flag

Go away you rainsnout
Go away blow your brains out
November

 

Spring One-Day Seminar at Antioch Writers’ Workshop: March 24, 2018

two images of garlic (top-cross section of cloves, then bottom, whole head)

Maybe we’ll write about garlic. Who knows?

Dive Into Your Story!

I’m thrilled to be teaching at the Antioch Writers’ Workshop one-day “Dive into your story” workshop. We’ll play!

When: Saturday, March 24, 2018, 9am-4:30pm

Where: University of Dayton

To register, go here.