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"I mean, who doesn't want their six-year-old daughter to hang out with princesses, and shit...?"

A few of us nodded solemnly. Some threw up their hands, clicked their teeth in disgust. Many were quiet with sloped shoulders. Seated at long tables arranged into an open rectangle, we all pointed our bodies and attention towards him in agreement. I doubt the men would use the language "holding space for him," but that's what we did. 

We meet twice weekly to loosen their knots of habits, deeds, lessons and norms, particularly as partners and parents. Over the course of six months, we unpack trauma, toxic masculinity, self-actualization, expectations and accountability vs. responsibility.  They weigh the stakes of their relationships, wellness, and even their freedom. The men also have space --often, for the first time-- to admit their hurts, their misguided intentions, their inherited perspectives and debunk curious myths. 

This week, our check-in, a warm-up con…
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Capital Letter Me

I've been trying on the idea of lonely for some months now. The word first tumbled from some consciousness and out of my mouth on a car ride with my friend. 
“I’ve been lonely for as long as I can remember,” we were both stunned to hear me say.

We had just pulled up to her apartment when this unannounced truth slid into open air. We’ve been friends and colleagues for more than twenty years: clocking countless hours of logistics, laughter, life and lament. 

For as long as I can remember.

I've never described myself as lonely, save a post-breakup season. Isolated, either. True, most of my world is solitary: sitting at a laptop, traveling to an engagement, working from my empty nest home office, even speaking in front of an audience or class. By default, I’m alone a lot, but lonely is different. Isolation is different.

My language, instead, is that I’m “a high-functioning introvert,” was "an arts and crafts kid” and have always “spent a lot of time in my head.” I came into myself…

Kraken the whip

It. has been. a YEAR since I've sat down to write. From this side of my pen, that is. Writing projects, yes. Scripts for one-woman shows. A children's book. A 11-minute poem that I performed with the Milwaukee Ballet.  Nothing to boo hoo about, at all.  Except these words weren't, necessarily, for me. I might have etched five poems, but I would have stirred them in a workshop I was leading or supporting. Not sure if that counts as writing for myself.

When I started counting on my fingers, my eyes tracking absently across the ceiling, the math was incomprehensible. I thought of friends I'd giggled with about their comparable sex dry spells.

A year, girl? A whole year, like twelve months, back to back, f'real? 

My bad, y'all.

In this past year, my best words were tiles for funding mosaics, grants and proposals, strategic plans, contract agreements and curricula, social media posts, text messages -sometimes a panel's worth, and eight trillion emails.

Eight.

At …

Feed Them

If we examine our opinions, we can trace the tpuzzle seams between where we've been and what we truly know. I strive to be responsible with my opinions. Feed them a balanced diet of facts, perspective, narrative and whimsy. My opinions don't aspire to be big and strong. Just healthy. They don't yearn to be popular or franchised, just authentic and, hopefully, sturdy.

Even when they appear to match, opinions have unique owners. "Defending" our opinions should mean sketching their lineage: origin, influences, close relatives, familial mergers, adoptions and a nod to the season they spent "discovering themselves." Opinions offer shorthand for our emotions, experiences and unasked questions.

Question your opinions.

Test them in private to see if they can answer for themselves. If they're nervous or insecure. Are they loud? Lazy? Misinformed? People pleasers? How do your opinions respond to inspection or opposition? Are they holding a grudge? Wearing th…

Next to the Last Drop

We were all hugs in the middle of the coffee line.  Ours was a long overdue sit down now gift wrapped in a new project. We chatted through the line to a table by the window.

Our sitting tipped the tiny cafe's count to "half full," joining a man with the newspaper, a pair of women studying and a shop regular who tittered with the barista while buying her bulk beans. My coffee mate and I were laughing and catching up, taking advantage of the holiday time warp. Not long into our conversation, a young guy walked through space and asked if we knew Mr. Wilson. We didn't. The young man moved on, melting into ambient cafe shapes and noises behind our conversation.

Standing on the opposite side of the high table next to ours, the young man blurts out "HOW MUCH?" but to no on in particular. He walked out. We raised our eyebrows and kept talking.

We were coasting into the brainstorming portion of our meeting when my coffee-mate's gaze was pulled beyond my shoulder…

Eight is Enough

One: Last year during my trip to Botswana, a local woman did a double take after hearing me speak.

"Where are you from?" she asked.

"US," I said.

"Agh!" She perked with surprise. "You look like Botswana woman. You have Botswana fi-gaah."


Two: Arriving in Botswana this year, the customs agent droned her questions: nature of visit, number of days, country of residence, country of birth. Hearing me say "USA" twice, I noticed that she hovered above a thought before deciding to speak it aloud.

"You look African."

I thanked her and asked what would distinguish an African woman from a black American woman.

"Your fee-chaas," she said, using an index finger to make a circular motion around her face. I thanked her again, smiling.


Three: Chatting with my hosts as we were leaving a cafe, I overheard two ladies comment as we passed their table about being surprised at my accent (funny. me. from Wisconsin. with an accent) and that…