T’was a heated Wednesday filled to the brim with volunteering, job fishing in the pond of minnows and sharks, house/dog sitting arrangement, and getting ready to go to a one woman show on La Isla de Granville. Unlike most days doing such things (minus the one woman show attendance, which isn’t habitual in any way), it turned into an unexpected opportunity for scribing and scribbling with abandonment, an etching of words into an old-school coiled notebook sans cover.
I was fortunate enough to tag along to one of the writing workshops Megaphone puts on for low income and homeless people within the downtown east side community. I arrived at this particular undisclosed location prepared only to jot down notes so as to steal ideas about what sort of activities one might use when say, one were to, oh, for example, facilitate such a workshop starting on July 12th, hypothetically. Not me, you see, but a friend who also happens to be of the female persuasion, with my identical name, age, and other bizarre similarities. That was my intention; to allay the fears of my intensely neurotic demons that are hell-bent on being proper hellians. Yes, they have one dream, uno awesome goal: rubbing the perfect storm of lemon juice, salt and anything else stingy into my ego wounds, on top of bumps covered by bruises.
I have taught before, yes indeed but I’ve never felt I achieved what I felt I should or could have. I tried to wring juicy life from ESL student stones. What I got more frequently was literal, dry, academic with sparkling moments of accidental and occasionally purposeful creativity. I tried, with only a weensy teensy percentage of success, to tap into the Wild Minds of the Wikipedia copy cats but there was a fog that descended upon our words. Sometimes it was if we would communicate using the adult-speak of Charlie Brown grownups.
Me:”Wah wah wah wah wah pen. Wah wah wah! Write, be free! Blither blather examples go!”
Some of them, too many, heads on desks: But TEACHHHHHEEEEERRRRRRRR!
Suffice to say adult-children from overseas don’t have the motivation, desire, not to mention the challenges, that say, someone living with schizophrenia on the street might.
Having said that, I am glad I had the chance to “infect” some students purely by being a persistent zealot of the written word, be it in essay, poem, song or even stage-play form. For all of the times I wanted to bang my head against walls, desks, students’ heads, karate chopping my wishes into their skulls in utter frustration and disbelief, there were moments when I was bedazzled by their hilarious creativity, be it intended or some sort of luminescent side-effect of being in my gleaming enthusiasm. Some came brilliantly alive if they gave themselves and me half a chance; if they took a risk and used language as a tool to learn culture, have fun, get excited and be open to creation. This is when I loved teaching; when there was a perfect ebb and flow between what I envisioned and intended and what came back to me from the students. This symbiosis, a near perfect energy storm where egos got dropped at the door and much hysterical laughing and thrill seeking occurred. There can be no better result in a classroom.
And that is what has precisely scared the beejeezus out of my short pants. What if I cannot do this again when it matters so much more? What if I have little to offer people whose circumstances more clearly demonstrate a need for release into a creative land, where the mind’s eye looks but doesn’t glare, a place where the inner critic evolves into a standing ovation for the genius who has found her/his own voice?
Like so many things, I have to take my own words and heed them. I plan on going into the room, ready to lay it all out, tell them to shut off their own whirly gig, monkey minds, the screeching and the name-calling, the judging and the angry caterwauling. Hush to the “I can’t”s. Hurrah to the “You can do it , yes indeed”s.
Even though my stomach pit is telling me otherwise, it is not a matter of fear, but a matter of grace that will lead me forward. I have to give myself permission to be afraid, but even more importantly, to sit down with myself and know that I know that of which I speak. I have walked and continue to travel with them. Our darkened experiences may not be one and the same, and very arguably, my day-to-day is significantly easier. But anyone who knows me well, knows I have experienced first hand a very ugly corner of humanity with my ex and lived to tell the tales. I am human, I have survived and I write. That is why I can facilitate. Because if there’s one thing I really know, one thing my flesh has sponged in and held onto over the years: creation is life. Any story is worth telling. Like any practice, writing is a get down in the dirt and roll about sweating like a pig kind of situation. The rare genius will pick up a pen and slather buttery brilliance upon a page. Most of us have to struggle, work hard and be prepared to spew shit onto dead trees like crazy before the diamonds start shooting out. And even then, years later, I still get grossed out by a lot of what I wrestle out of that bizarre thing upon my shoulders.
Every time I think I’ve started to get it, I forget and it begins all over again. Turn, spin, rinse, and repeat.
On Wednesday instead of observing the writing workshop, I found myself asked to free write without stopping, on the word opportunity. Here is what I had the chance to scribble when my brain wasn’t looking.
to be continued…