Archive for January 10th, 2008

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Natalie Goldberg, Old Friend from Far Away – The Practice of Writing Memoir, December 21st, 2007 (to play video, click either green arrow twice)

Natalie Goldberg has a new book coming out on February 12th, Old Friend from Far Away – The Practice Of Writing Memoir. One of our readers tipped us off to a video clip from the Free Press Division of Simon & Shuster (thank you, Jackie).

Without Natalie, there is a good chance that red Ravine would not be here. Nor would Writing Practice. We are grateful for everything she has taught us.

To Natalie, a deep bow. And thank you.

Millions of Americans want to write about their lives. With Old Friend as the road map for getting started and following through, writers and readers will gain a deeper understanding of their own minds, learn to connect with their senses in order to find the detail and truth that give their written words power and authenticity, and unfold the natural structure of the stories they carry within.

An absolute joy to read, it is a profound affirmation of the capacity of the written word to remember the past, free us from it, and forever transform the way we think about ourselves and our lives. Like Writing Down the Bones, Goldberg’s classic book about the practice of writing, it will become an old friend to which readers return again and again.

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, January 10th, 2008

-schedule of Natalie’s workshops: Natalie Goldberg Workshops

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Snow Goddess, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2007, photo © 2007 by SkyWire Alley. All rights reserved.

Snow Goddess, Minneapolis, Minnesota, taken Christmas Day, December 2007, photo © 2007 by SkyWire Alley. All rights reserved.

Dark when I left work,
then closing my eyes for sleep
the weatherman chimed,

“In the great Midwest
we’ve gained 8 minutes of light
since Winter Solstice.”

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There is a lost feeling that comes over me this time of year. In the gap between New Year’s and whatever happens next in my life. That’s not specific enough. Lost is a feeling. And a place.

Specifics. Next gains in employment. Which aspects of moneymaking do I add to the writing agenda? How do I balance making money from writing with my creative writing, the blog, my book, the simple, unbridled pleasure of setting words down on the page.

I’ve got a plan. A Vision. It became clear when I did my gratitude list. It’s the same plan I had a few months ago. Next steps, a flyer for teaching, taking the blog to the next level, or letting go. The lost feeling stirs me to the dregs of decisions – what do I let go of. What do I hold on to. Letting go implies a sense of loss. I don’t like to feel loss.

A snowstorm is moving in from the West. Sweeping cold, after 42 degree drips off the eaves, sliding down the gutter and into dead mahogany grass. Across the screensaver, photographs, ghosts of last summer. The rain that fell like hail, and looked like snow. The tiny side garden that forms a half moon on the hill, lined with river rocks. And each year we add another variety of plant or flower.

Still no details. I’m looking to land.

I’m thinking about gender differences when it comes to emotions. Some of it is the way we are hardwired to operate in the world. From a very young age, girls and boys are corralled and branded according to gender. But some of it is hormonal. No one (man or woman) wants to hear the “H” word when it relates to women. Yet hormone comes from the Greek, “hormon”  — that which sets in motion, impels, or urges on. What’s wrong with that?

And hormones are all the rage when it comes to steroids and sports. Secretly, this country thinks that men have a god-given right to harden and bulk up. Yet women, no right to a moment of tenderness or vulnerability.

Bodies. Men and women have different chasseys; different fluids keep their bodies running. The most recent evidence of this for me was reading about a woman who was undergoing the process of changing to a man. Sometimes the soul of a man gets trapped in a female body. Sometimes the spirit of a woman gets trapped in a male. People have the right to do with their own bodies what they will. I don’t judge.

The woman was in a relationship with another woman. They were partners. When she began taking the testosterone for the curves of her body to transform and harden, something else happened – she stopped crying. This was a woman who had cried freely and easily all her life, felt strong emotion, was connected to her feelings.

After testosterone, no more tears.

I don’t understand all the details in the internal workings of hormones. But I know they make a difference in the way we connect and operate in the world. To expect women to act like men is not reasonable. It’s not even something I would want. I have empathy and respect for the attributes that both sexes bring to the table.

The woman taking the testosterone is struggling in her relationship. And she is distraught at the change in her emotional makeup. Her partner, fully supportive of the bodily changes, is wondering what happened to the soft, empathetic personality of the woman she fell in love with. Is she gone forever? Who better than this couple to glean a better understanding of the hormonal realities and shifts between men and women.

Why do men, if they do, cry secretly. And women cry openly. Several of our readers have commented on breaking down at work at least once in their careers. About going through a rough patch, losing it emotionally, crying or raging in the workplace.

The same thing happened to me about 5 years ago, right before I left the corporate environment I had worked in for 9 years. There was lots of stress in my personal life. Yet I managed 3 teams of over 30 people and had to keep it together at work. One week, I couldn’t contain it anymore. I broke down.

I wasn’t looked at the same after that either. I was seen as a less effective leader. The managers under me (all women) became suspicious of my decisions. I took some time off to regroup. Fortunately, I already had plans to leave that career path for my writing. So I don’t know how it would have worked out if I had stayed.

I might have applied for a job where I no longer had to manage people. Middle management is a thankless job. You’re trapped between everyday complaints from teams of hardworking employees, and the rigid dictation of corporate management whose talons swoop down from above. It’s a big fat game.

The pressure is huge for women to conform to the systems already in place: in work, in politics, in love. But if they truly honored that request, they would no longer be able to contribute the myriad of gifts that make them women. There is no winning.

Hillary has given rise again to the complicated issues around gender gaps. I think the debate is good. But if we’re going to hold her to such high standards, it follows that we should also put the same pressures on fathers, uncles, nephews, sons – to make them break down and cry. The next time their child is in pain. Or they celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. Or a close friend at work is in an accident and won’t be returning. Or what about when they read of a country whose citizens are being slain, through the systematic murder of genocide.

Yeah, maybe we should expect them to force themselves to cry. The way the systems of power in the world force us to try not to. To push our politicians to show some kind of human emotion in situations where any normal person would be grateful for the capacity to feel.

I don’t have any answers. This is a writing practice – feelings and thoughts rambling around in my head this morning. It’s not edited or polished. It’s not anything – but practice. A release from having to control all those pent up emotions. And wonderment at why, after half a century of living as a woman, I only have more questions.

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, January 10th, 2008

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – EMOTIONAL VOCABULARY and the post, Do You Do Politics?

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