Saturday, January 18, 2020

What I've Been Doing

Photo by the inimitable Carl Jackson,

I bet you're wondering what I've been doing since I last posted when the year was young -- only two days -- and so filled with promise and resolution and new beginnings. Well, we're eighteen days in, Reader, and so far my favorite thing about the new year is writing 2020 instead of 2019. It looks better, it sounds better, and I'm hoping it gets better.

So, what have I been doing?

  1. Reading: I've read Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney which I really liked (she's just such a readable writer), but I didn't like it nearly as much as last year's Normal People. I'm still reading The Water Dancer by Ta Nehisi Coates and finding it difficult. Dare I say he's a better non-fiction writer (beyond brilliant) than fiction writer? As the kids say, IMHO. I'm almost finished with the sensational The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah Broome. It's so good. In the bathroom I've got this great book called Sharp by Michelle Dean.  The subtitle is "Ten Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion," and so far I've gotten through the first profile on Dorothy Parker. I'm not one of those people who spends a lot of time in the bathroom on the toilette or doing my toilette, but I do like to pick up something interesting and short to read that I can come back to and easily pick up where I left off. I've also just begun to read Garth Greenwell's Cleanness because two of my writing mentors recommended it, and the editor of MGDB* touted it as well. I read Greenwell's earlier book, so I'm expecting this to be as good. The sex is very, very graphic. By the way.
  2. Going to movies: I've seen "1917," which sucked me in and under as I've always been partial to the Great War, if one can be partial toward wars at all. Aside from sitting on the edge of my seat throughout the movie and being enthralled by the cinematography and the two beautiful co-stars, the main feeling I had was a sort of bemused rage and incredulous sorrow. WE MUST DO ANYTHING WE CAN TO MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO MORE WARS. Honestly, nearly every war movie I've ever watched has manipulated me into this emphatic imperative. Wars are hideous. There is no glory or honor in them. They are madness and insane, and anyone who justifies killing on a grand scale like that is spouting propaganda. Speaking of wars, I've also seen my beloved Terence Malick's "The Hidden Life" which is another war movie, but it's about goodness -- about what it means to be deeply moral and good. I saw Goddess Greta Gerwig's "Little Women" and was utterly enchanted by it, transported in exactly the same way I was transported by the book -- any book, actually -- as a very young girl. That took me by surprise as I had never seen any of the other renditions and only had the book to compare it to. The movie was just as much about writing and reading as it was about being a sister and a woman chafing at societal constraints. I absolutely loved it. I've watched some Netflix and Amazon stuff, too -- most memorably, "The Two Popes" which was more a story of two human beings than the weird fuckery of the Catholic Church. I think that's because Anthony Hopkins and especially Jonathan Pryce were exceptional. Reader, I still can't abide the Catholic Church and that dislike would include Francis, as he is still THE POPE of an institution that I believe should be dismantled.
  3. Teaching at two different schools: I have around 60 students that range in age from 13 to 18. The majority are in a small, private, ultra-religious high school here in Los Angeles that is, at the very least, giving me a lot of material for a future memoir. No more need be said or will be said. Stay tuned, though. I have a few students in another, very highly specialized school, each of whom I adore. Truly. One of my students began reading Carson McCuller's The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and on a day when I wasn't even teaching her, she poked her head in my office and said, Oh my god! I love the book you picked out for me! I was having a particularly difficult time finding something for another of my students to read and relate to -- and then I thought of Flannery O'Connor's short stories. The kid is sucked in and under and very, very into "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and "The Life You Save May Be Your Own." Reader, this thrills me to no end. 
  4. Having my mind blown without the use of psychotropics: I attended a 12-hour Holotropic Breathwork workshop last Saturday. I haven't fully processed the experience and don't have the words to describe the journey I went on during the 3 hours of breathing I did, blindfolded and  carried by incredible music that filled the room and my body with sound. You can read about holotropic breathwork on the world wide webs. I released a whole lot of shit and am still feeling the effects in a positive way over a week later.
  5. The tedious work of what Divorce Lawyer World calls "Discovery." I will say no more except that I have been set into a Matrix, a strange and mad world of no reason, where everything is transactional and my worth measures in negative numbers. It's a good thing that one of the hallucinations I experienced during the Holotropic Breathwork session was my generous body as Mother Earth, merged with the indigo Cosmos and lit by stars, my children rushing toward me as beings of power, my pelvis on fire and the only thing to fear a strange, searing pain that ran up and down my left side but, allowed to speak for itself, was released and transformed into dance. Honestly.

* My God-damn book, which I have worked on only in my brain with not a thing on paper to show for it for over a year.



  1. Many years ago I went to a Holotropic Breathwork workshop. It was an absolutely amazing experience. I don't know how I could completely express how it affected me to anyone who had never experienced it. They might not even believe me. My workshop took place with a group of other people. Part of my experience was the sensation of waves of emotion from the other people in the room. Then as I went further into the experience I was on
    my own vivid, wonderful, very intense journey and I no longer had any awareness of the other people in the room, nor the room for that matter. My journey took me far. I felt positive effects from my breathwork experience for weeks or maybe even months later.

  2. Your ex-husband, I spit on the floor!

    You sound busy but in a good way and it sounds like you are shaping the future of readers, recommending and guiding; a very good thing.

    I haven't seen any movies lately but I do want to see Little Women. War movies I can do without, there is too much death and destruction in the world already. I saw what happened to my own father, lived with what happened to him, killing fucks people up for the rest of their lives. They carry those souls with them forever. It haunts them.

    I hope you have a wonderful day. Sending love and hugs.

  3. As always, Elizabeth, you stride through it all with full heart and full mind and I am in constant awe of your strength, your warrior spirit which you use not for warfare but for always the good in life, the truth, the love.

  4. a good 'catch up' post here. I will take your movie and book recommendations into account. I've just finished Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich (sad and dark) and next up is The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. Her novel Round House got me started many years ago.

    I have been through the mill, what with moving away (Colorado) at the insistence of my very ill husband. He has now died. He asked me to come two weeks ago and I did. He was in Skilled Nursing and we spent several days together making peace with one another and it was beautiful and all anger is gone. Only compassion filled my heart as he slipped out of this week to the day after I arrived. Now the organizational clean up begins and there is so much of it.

    How's that for a start to 2020? And I'm so very sorry that you are going through "Discovery." That sounds ominous. I ache for your trouble in this area. All strength and love to you, Elizabeth.

  5. Thanks for filling us in on your activities! I read "Normal People" last year and although I liked it, I could not tell you now a single thing about it. And as for war, YES! I have never understood this (mostly male) tendency to glorify and romanticize conflict.

    Discovery. A nice word for a not-nice process.

  6. I am gobsmacked by this post. So. Much. Life! Your student readers. Your creative sustenance so generously shared. And oh my god that vision of yourself during the breathwork! What power resides in you! It showed itself in all its glory and now you can always call on that vision. I’m so blown away.

  7. God, I want to do holotropic breath work now! I wonder if it exists in Ireland.
    Please write your book. I'll buy it!

  8. That photograph of the starry starry night is almost like the Van Gogh painting. Please tell the amazing photographer that it's simply wonderful.

    Well, you lead a full life and so you should.

  9. Jonah and went to see Little Women last weekend, as Greta Gerwig is his favorite director. As expected, I cried most of the movie as I loved that book so as a girl, so wanted (still do) to be Jo. The breathwork sounds amazing and valuable. And, I feel you in the land of divorce. I began the paperwork for child support last week and am waiting for the nuclear bomb that will explode when the ex gets his paperwork--I can't write about it publicly as i don't know what he has access to, or where he snoops. May your tempest pass quickly and may you prevail. xoxo

  10. Maintain your Warrior Spirit, Divorce is very transactional and devoid of True Value. I do think 2020 has great Promise and you've got Positive outlets that will transcend the Negs. That Photo of Carl's is mesmerizing and was like looking into a Vortex of a hidden World we don't see with the Naked Eye.

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.