Tag Archives: #metoo

Many Restless Concerns by Gayle Brandeis

many restless concerns book cover

Many Restless Concerns (a testimony)  by Gayle Brandeis

(This post is being drafted using voice typing on Google Docs. I am using this technology because I broke my dominant wrist and had surgery, and am still recovering.  Please excuse any Typos and imperfections!)

In thinking about my friend Gayle Brandeis’ new book, I recalled Joy Williams essay “Why I write” from her book Ill Nature. In the essay, Williams writes, “The good piece of writing startles the reader back into Life. The work– this Other, this other thing– this false life that is even less than the seeming of this lived life, is more than the lived life, too. It is so unreal, so precise, so alarming, really.  Good writing never soothes or comforts. It is no prescription, neither is it diversionary, although it can and should enchant while it explodes in the reader’s face. Whenever the writer writes, it’s always three or four or five in the morning in his head. Those horrid hours are the writer’s days and nights when he is writing. The writer doesn’t write for the reader. He doesn’t write for himself, either. He writes to serve… something.  Somethingness. The somethingness that is sheltered by the wings of nothingness– those exquisite, enveloping, protecting wings.”

I was thinking about how to talk about my experience of reading the new work of Gayle Brandeis. How these riveting verses accumulate into story, and along the way, yes, enchant, for their lyrical brilliance, and yet still, for their horrifying imagery, explode in my face. Although (please know) they are extremely unsettling and certainly violent, the voices of these (imagined or channeled) victims of Countess Bathory make their impression in part because of the importance of not looking away.  The lives of these girls and women, from the perspective of their torturer, were incidental, always a casualty to Bathory’s drive to torture.

The victims survived by adapting. As victims often do. On page 29, Gayle writes,

“We learned to stay upright, to work even when wounds wept beneath our sleeves; we learned to keep our voices down, learned to not look her in the eye; we learned fear becomes another organ in the body, pulsing gall through every vein.”

On page 35, Gayle writes about how the body keeps the score, writes about the words burn, drown, freeze, scald, verbs which were among the methods of torture, how they stay with the spirit even when the body is gone.

“…These words have become something more than words. They have become weapons, ready to get under the surface of you, pry you back open.

Your body remembers even when you no longer have a body.

(some tender part of you still flinches.)

( some immaterial nerves still flare)”

This short, crystalline book is not an easy read. After diving in and becoming quickly engrossed,  I was unsure how exactly I would get through it. But I trusted that Gayle–and the survivors’ spirits–would lead toward light. And they did. The victims, so many unnamed survivors, found and picked up their power through making a circle, banding together. And they needed to tell their story. Ghosts need witnesses. 

We need to witness.

From page 102,

“It’s fine you don’t know our names now.

 You know our testimony.

 You know enough to yell “Meat!”

 when we call out “Bone?”

 if you are listening

(are you still listening?)

 You know enough to lay some flesh upon our forgotten skeletons,

 to feel the weight of our death inside your own body.

 You know enough to remember how alive you are

(how lucky).”

***

I am grateful for the reminder, for knowing enough to remember how alive I am, and how lucky. 

(#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.