Friday, March 9, 2012

A thing to admit

"Admit" is a word you'd have to teach an English learner very carefully. It brings with it a weightiness; it's a thing you've been carrying around that you really need to set down for a minute. It brings to mind the idea of burden, of secret magnitude. It is not bulbous but meaty, made of stone and carved in the dark alleys of your impulses.

Here is something I'd like to admit:

I hardly ever read (entire) books.

I carry them around a lot. I buy them new, often at full price, and carry them with my laptop while headed to a coffee shop or wine bar to write or edit. Then, I sit them on the table in front of me... and open my laptop. And close it. And leave, books thumbed but not truly entered.

Due to the nature of coffee shop tables—often sticky with cream, sugar, ink that's escaped a page—the books I bring begin to look worn. I go, I come, I take them to my car where they are subject to the weariness of travel. They are on the passenger side floor next to the magazine I edit, they are in the backseat on top of my yoga mat, they are next to me under my Spanish teaching books, fellow warriors in the odd metallic bookcase that is my car.

But they are not often in my hands. Their words remain on the pages and don't travel through me—just, with me.

My current "books I'm walking around with" pile.
Often, we admit things because we'd like to change them. Or, we'd like to think that the admission will spur a change without us having to try so hard. If the whole world can see my faults, perhaps when I am in a coffee shop a friend will come by and ask, "How is that book?" with a wink, and I will know they are part of the team I created to conspire against myself to make me close my laptop, stop working on whatever I'm editing—and editing is also an art to me, but it's so close to my soul art of writing that I can do it and feel productive without producing—and read.

I'm an editor and a writer, but so much of what I do is not reading. I write a piece, and though I'll look it over several times for errors and places to amplify it, this is not reading. I edit other people's work, pull it apart and gnaw on it. And oh, how I remember the details—"This isn't my edited version, this hyphen is not an em dash." But I may not remember the heart of it, even if the peelings are scattered next to me.

To read and read well is a practice. It helps craft the imagination. It helps me sink into that place where I can pull things out and place them, sweaty-handed, on the table in a collage of emotion and inspiration. Reading is the other half of my writing, it is the folded-over blanket, the curve of the body that is so different from the back than the front, but it is still the same body. It is the salve to my ache when that ache is writing, when I have been so far away from it that it scares me. It is the stimulator to my over-edited mind. It is the—here, we're done, we've traveled in and through and out today… where shall we go next?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

On triggers and disarming our inner landmines

We use the word "trigger" when we talk about someone/something that gives us an unpleasant feeling specifically because it relates to a bad experience or a negative issue we haven't worked through.

What he said really triggered me.
It triggers me when she talks about her boss.

I've used it, often back in my early days of Boulder, when every word with a new meaning—"manifest," "project," etc.—begged me to latch on to it, stitch it up in an invisible dictionary and toss it at unsuspecting East Coasters on my trips home.

For example:
Hey, sorry I'm late. But don't worry, I'm manifesting a parking spot right in front of the bar.
I think maybe you're projecting that on to me. Have you tried Emotional Freedom Technique?

But within this exciting world of New Age lexicon, what happens if we don't want to be triggered anymore, when we want to let go of and move through our issues?

Conscious communication gurus (like this guy and this couple, both of whom cradle me in sweet sanity in my darkest moments) teach us that nothing makes us feel a certain way; we own our emotions and we are the creators of how we feel. "You make me happy." No— "I feel happy when I'm around you."

When we say something triggers us, we give it power. Why frame it that way, blocking us from going inward toward further understanding? What does the trigger look like? Is it purple, black, red? What is its shape? Is it the shape of a golf ball, your mother's wedding ring, a ruler, a locker room? How does it smell, how does it taste?

My triggers taste like a French pastry (yes, I made this at Frasca's Caffe).

I'm trying to be grateful to people who trigger me, toward reframing the idea of a trigger and saying instead: this person reminds me that I have armory around, that I have things inside that can explode. Let's disarm the system; let's take out the bullets so there is nothing that can hurt me.

Instead of, "He triggers me," how about, "He helps me to notice my intricate and treacherous inner landscape of security sensors and landmines, and begin the journey toward disarming them." Over an almond-milk latte. On a sunny Boulder no-work weekday.