The Week in Bodily Experiences

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

[Image description: summer time at Alki beach with me walking away from the camera into the water in a blue checkered dress and my hands up in my hair -- I'm missing warm weather!]

1. Kicking my heels down against the ground and feeling where my (short) hamstrings actually are while under the guidance of a weight training coach.
2. Exhaling up into downward dog and feeling the tip of my tailbone aching from a chronic injury I’ve had for the past year.
3. Pulling on a jumpsuit in front of the mirror and seeing that the waist seam is uneven – did my body change or was it the clothes?
4. Swimming with my head underwater, I feel the burn in your chest when I’ve pushed out all the air but haven’t yet come up for another breath.
5. Feeling my hair lift up off my shoulders as it shrinks back because of the chlorine.
6. Digging into food with my hands and feeling all of the textures – smooth, gritty, rubbery, firm, mushy, hot.
7. Laughing as I stutter step on skates for the first time after months of being bound to my computer and essentially inert.

Can you tell that I went back to exercising this week? I offer you this list as a little exercise in observation, for you to then use as writing prompts or just to be aware of as you go about your week. If you remember to, take a moment to write down a small detail of your bodily experience this week. I would be curious to read what you found.

Earlier this January, I shared a pastiche piece on stage that collected excerpts of the writing I have done over the past year (alongside the brilliant artist and my middle school friend Jess X Snow!). When I was putting it together, I was worried that two things would happen: I would not have enough writing to put together the set and, even if I did, that they would be totally disjointed.

The first worry turned out to not be a thing – and it’s a super gratifying experience to go through your writer’s notebook months later and think “hey, this doesn’t suck as much as I thought it did” – but I was surprised to find that my second worry also unwound itself fairly quickly. It turns out that my work has revolved more and more around the literal human body and how it holds everything from emotions and trauma to memory and joy. I’m primarily a narrative writer, and so it was interesting to see that those details stood out even when I was reading pieces that were more story or creative nonfiction than performance style.

Since that reading, I have been thinking about “dreaming bigger” with my work – both on stage and off. It feels like I’ve stumbled upon the thread that ties all these pieces together. In the past, when I have had to answer that dreaded question “what is your writing about?” I have gone into long clumsy paragraphs about what this particular project is about and what I’m working on this afternoon. Of course, that will still happen. But I feel like curating these pieces gave me a telescope lens view of what connects all those little scraps. Which is definitely helpful as I look towards tackling the monster beast that is editing my novel draft in the coming months.

But that’s a little later. For now, cheers to figuring out a little tiny (but absurdly important) thing.

I’m also really grateful to announce this week that I have received the Inside/Out Residency with Town Hall Seattle! This means that I’ll be developing performance pieces – also exploring how the body holds trauma and emotional experiences – for the next six months. I’m excited to share that work with you and hope that you will come out and see it!