Angel Posse Meets Story Sisterhood

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They don’t mind my writing about them and I don’t mind risking sounding like a religious fanatic or a woo-woo nut job.

I just spent the last hour writing a story about my angel posse, for one of the prompts in The Story Sisterhood. This new membership group of The Inky Path will dive deeply into a single theme every three months. For our inaugural theme “Gotta Have Faith,” already a group of really wonderful women from around the world has assembled to explore our stories, one week at a time, alone and together.

Though I’ve written about my angels many times before, today I wound up writing something brand new, something I would probably not have sat down to write had I not had some reason to do so. While this itself is a gift for me, such a huge part of the writing is also in the sharing and the connections that opens up between me and other humans.

So many factors at play. So much responsibility to bear. The whole “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” thing? I wasn’t sure I was buying it.

So when I say things like “I hope you’ll join us,” it’s not an empty sales pitch. Whether I’m referring to the writing groups I lead privately or the ones I co-create over at The Inky Path, what you’re getting is my heart, my whole self, and an expression of my deep and genuine desire to share some of my stories with you and to get the deep privilege of reading yours.

What you’re hearing is borne of awe at the alchemy of memory, writing, and witness.

And they are tough as nails, too. They never back down and they always have my back. My angels are my best friends. I don’t know what I’d do without them.

I don’t know what I’d do without you, either. My writing posse. This beautiful and ever-expanding community.

If taking the time and creating the space to connect with your own stories inside of a truly supportive community of women calls to you, I hope you’ll join me and my inky partner-in-crime. Cigdem Kobu in The Story Sisterhood.

inkypath.com/story-sisterhood/

Registration is open through the weekend, then will close until late summer.

“This sisterhood is unlike anything I have experienced. It has unleashed many words that needed a meadow to romp in without fear.” – Terri Jackson

The Art of Intuition

Intuition
For days now, I’ve been thinking about intuition. And there’s one thing I keep coming back to: To intuit is to get INTO it. It being what you know to be true, but must trust in the absence of empirical evidence or rational thought.

I googled it and was shocked to see lots of links related to “stick-to-itiveness,” but nothing about into-it-tiveness. It seems so obvious! Such a great way of defining something intangible.

When my intuition is strong, it means I’m tapped into something, some knowledge source, that transcends what Einstein called “the faithful servant” of the rational mind. This — this intuitive mind — he called “a sacred gift.” And indeed, we need both. But Einstein knew what he was talking about when he went on to say that in prizing the first, we’ve forgotten the second.

The only way to get it back is to go into it. To step away from rational and tap into those layers of knowing that live beneath the surface of linear thought and logical explanation.

I was stirring rice cereal for Mani a bit ago. Standing at the stove, moving the spoon round and round the edges of the pot as the concoction bubbled and thickened. “Pearl is going to call me any minute,” I thought. Just then, my phone lit up and I saw her dad’s name across the screen. I cannot tell you how often this happens — between me and my own mom and between me and both of my kids. It’s a small thing, no doubt. Inconsequential and probably not worth reporting.

But it has to do with this kind of listening. And the more naps I take, the more convinced I become that it’s only by resisting the compulsion to stay busy at all times that my ability to tap into a knowing that defies explanation can grow strong.

Today, I had the privilege of spending just shy of an hour on Skype in conversation with my Inky Path partner, Cigdem (Chi-dem) Kobu, and Alana Shereen, host of the Create Your Magical Life podcast. Alana had us on her show to discuss creativity, writing, and community — and their many intersections. I was nervous before the call began, in that heart-thumping kind of way that makes you know you’re alive and not just going through the motions (a feeling I can’t seem to stray from for long). I jotted down a few notes; my rational brain faithfully serving me, telling me I’d better have something to look at and refer to as we talked.

Then our call began. I got settled into the little butterfly chair in Pearl’s room — the quietest spot I could find. Alana’s rich, warm voice immediately put me at ease, and within minutes of taking turns with Cigdem responding to her questions, and hearing Alana’s thoughtful responses in turn, I was at ease. I was IN IT. I also sensed her own intuitive approach, letting the conversation flow rather than forcing it into a certain form. I thought about the way I write, and at one point, I think I even mentioned that intuitive writing can sound intimidating.

It’s actually liberating.

I have a pretty strong tendency to feel overwhelmed. It’s a habit, really, and like any habit, not inherent to my being. On the other hand, varying degrees of anxiety and depression are as familiar to me as my morning coffee — just not nearly as welcome. Thankfully, these have never been so severe as to keep me from functioning in social or professional settings, as I’m well aware they can and do for millions of people. But couple them with an over-developed intellect and tendency to be so self-reflective that I could get lost in my own mind if I’m not vigilant?

Learning to trust my intuition has become equal parts anchor, compass, and comfort.

To write into-it. To sit still even though there are a million ways to stay busy. Because of this, in fact. Anne Sexton schooled, “put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” It’s hard to do when your mind is swirling with worries, most of which aren’t things you can do anything about. It’s even harder to write from a place of being outside of, rather than tapping into, experience.

After the call with Cigdem and Alana, I made some lunch for us and then attempted to settle in at my desk. I really did. On the weekends the kids are with their dad, I take roughly 24 hours off from working for Shabbat, and then try to make good use of Sundays as a work day. Being self-employed, one of the wonders if having a great deal of flexibility throughout the week; I love being able to shape my days around the kids’ schedules, my wife’s medical needs, and our own physical and emotional wellbeing.

On the other hand: Boundaries, yo. And the inherent instability in not having an employer other than myself. I work for every single dollar I earn to support our family, and am still learning how to truly trust both my intuition and the natural ebb and flow of this way of working. A day doesn’t go by that I’m not thankful for the ways it stretches me, suits me, and even sometimes startles me. And the stress of it is no more or less something to manage than the stress I experienced in pretty much every job I’ve ever held.

By this time, it was mid-afternoon. The sun had come out and I was wearing running clothes, though the furthest I’d ventured from the house was first thing in the morning, to go see the iris I’ve been tracking for the past five days (it bloomed!). I was not feeling into it. I was sitting there at my desk feeling out of it. Isn’t it cool, how even the language of this says it all? Intuit… into it. Being intuitive meant dropping into the moment, and in turn, that meant surrendering the rational mind.

My rational mind screamed.

You cannot rest! You have to organize your desk! You have to write poetry prompts for July! You have to finish planning the retreat! You have to fill your June two-week groups! You have to read the amazing writing in the amazing Mother, May I group!

(Seriously, I am not exaggerating about the screaming. My rational mind is a loud mofo, and a bit into fear-mongering, to boot).

My intuition, on the other hand, that sacred gift, had teamed up with the body as if so often does. The body never lies.

The body never lies.

And so I lay down with Mani, who herself was ready for a nap. Maybe I’ll just rest for an hour, I thought, though I didn’t set an alarm. Trust, trust, the body whispered. Rest, rest, intuition echoed. She pulled me in close, and I woke up two hours later to the most beautiful light outside our bedroom windows. Yellow and green, the kind of sunshine that precedes a storm. And sure enough, it began to pour. I stayed like that for a long time, just listening to the rain, drifting in and out, half-remembering dreams, sticky with sweat, the cool sheets draped along with Mani’s arms across my body.

Just writing about it slows my heartbeat.

Trusting intuition can be the scariest thing you’ll ever do. Because it doesn’t necessarily align (in fact, it often seems to be at odds with) what you think you should do. What your mind is screaming at you to do. But imagine a child, with two parents who do nothing but scream at each other. How awful and sad and frightening. This is how it feels to live inside a self where the mind and body are screaming at and not listening to each other.

To make space, to take rest, to find pockets of stillness and silence and not “being productive” — these are ways into a more peaceful marriage of mind and body. And while there may be bumps as a result of tuning into rather than dropping the signal to that sacred gift, these are nothing you won’t survive — whereas the stress of ignoring what you sense and know to be true can, over time, kill you. If not your body, then your spirit.

Every single one of us has an extraordinary life.

As Mani and I woke slowly from our long afternoon nap, I imagined an aerial view of us zooming out, from the bedroom, up above the room, into space. How tiny we looked. How fragile we are…. How sacred this gift of being alive, of resting together as the rain fell and the light changed.

Use Your Words. Find Your Peeps.

AsalsWhen you participate in my writing groups, you’ll receive prompts that are unavailable to the general public. These are designed to encourage your writing practice, discourage your inner critic (or at least get him or her to pipe down!), and help you practice writing freely, on your own and in the company of other wonderful folks.

Registration is currently open, with spaces available, in Mini Memoirs (April), Dive Into Poetry (April), Gestation and Inside Out (two-week groups in March and May), and the second annual Unfurl retreat in June. All groups are online except for Unfurl, which takes place in Western Massachusetts. You can also sign up for Self-Paced Writing Practice at any time.

Wondrous things happen inside of these groups — both in terms of writing and community; I hope you’ll come experience them for yourself, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions.

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inkylogo2You’ll also find original prompts — along with an array of fabulous Self-Study Classes and Master Classes by extraordinary teachers — over at The Inky Path, where every single Wednesday, my partner-in-ink, Cigdem Kobu, and I share a brand-new writing prompt on the blog. This weekly dose of inkspiration is free and intended to help you get your ink on.

When you join the Inky Path community, you’ll also benefit from sharing your work on a regular basis, getting to know some of the smartest, kindest, warmest, and funniest people ever, and being inkredibly supported in all of your writing — and life — endeavors — year-round. You’ll also receive special discounts on all of our classes.

I had an especially good time writing this week’s Inky prompt, about defining your own Comfort Zone — lest it define you first.

So come on over and have a look around. Oh! And when you subscribe to the Inky Path blog, Cigdem and I will send you a little book of prompts as a gesture of our gratitude for connecting with our wonderful community of people who love writing.

What Am I Good For?

Big Sur, Oil Painting, Kathleen Robison

Big Sur | Kathleen M Robison

I picked Aviva and Pearl up from their dad’s house on Sunday, arriving a few minutes before 4:00 and standing on the edge of their kitchen for a few minutes while the girls shuttled around gathering their things. They’d just returned from a week’s vacation with him, my parents, and my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew.

We schlepped their things and managed to cram it all into the small trunk of my trusty Toyota Scion. Somewhere between North Amherst and Big Y, where we were going to get groceries for the week, Pearl started talking about “dads.” It started when she said I should come on a beach vacation with them again, and I told her I’d like that. Maybe next year, though it’s impossible to predict whether Mani will be able to travel, among many other factors.

This got her going on how fun “dads” are. “Dads,” for example, are adventurous and like to do things like jump off cliffs.

Aviva, true to form, was getting worked up and insisting that Pearl define what, or who, she meant by “dads.”

“Pearl!” V shouted from the passenger seat. “You can’t just say ‘dads'” without saying which dads you mean!”

Finally Pearl narrowed “dads” down to three actual dads: Her own, her doting and athletic uncle, and a family friend who’d joined them and gone cliff-jumping at a beach known for its caves and decent-sized waves. In fact, she got on quite a roll about adventurous dads. “Dads like to get up at 6:00am to do something,” not just “stay at home and read a book.”

Seriously? I was thinking. I just stay at home and read books? I’d totally jump off a cliff with this kid!  

In the spirit of their re-entry — we had not been together for a week, a long stretch, and I’d been looking forward to their return — I was trying to be super easygoing and really did not want to feel defensive , though truth be told my ego was clambering to have its say. I went so far as to make light mention that I may be a lot more adventurous than Pearl seems to think, but that life has kept me closer to home over the past few years for lots of reasons. Then I left it at that.

Finally, as we were getting out the car and walking towards the grocery store entrance, I realized I had a simple question. And I decided to ask it with genuine curiosity.

“Pearlie, if ‘dads’ are good for adventures, what am I good for?”

She thought for a quick minute before responding.

“You’re good for… comfort.”

As I told Mani later that evening: If that’s what she knows she can count on me for, I’ll take it, without complaint. I have a feeling plenty of cliffs await — and she can be damn sure I’ll there all the times she’s ready to jump, offering whatever comfort I can.

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This post began as a freewrite inspired by this week’s writing prompt over at The Inky Path. Come subscribe and we’ll send you a free little book of prompts!