Queer Femmes Respond – Liz Nania on Art During the Pandemic

Back in May, Liz very kindly dropped by to talk about public speaking and her response to the pandemic; and I’m so honored to have her back again today!

Deep gratitude to Liz for her dedication to art and soul, for sharing her most recent Speaker Sisterhood words with us, and for responding with such nuance, vulnerability, and love to the times we live in now. And for sharing pages from her sketchbooks! Breathtaking!

Do you have something in your life that’s just for you; something you do on your own that feeds you, maybe keeps you sane, or possibly just fascinates you? And do you find yourself, during COVID-19, fighting yourself to do that thing?

For me, that’s my art-making. I’ve made art continuously since I was little. As a kid, I’d come home from school and hunker down with some crayons, glue, paper, toilet paper rolls, whatever was handy to make something with. As a teen, a time of turmoil for so many of us, the high school art room was my sanctuary. After school I’d go home and embroider one of my drawings onto my denim shirt, or crochet a really ugly sweater vest with long, tangled fringe. In my senior year, after filling out college applications for art school behind my father’s back, I managed to get a scholarship to the art program at Boston University. Four years later I became an art teacher in elementary schools, then in junior high, and then with adults.

Eventually my career as an art teacher ended, but I continued making art for myself. There were many years of painting, then designing metal and rhinestone jewelry and tiaras, which became a small business for several years. Now my primary art mediums are painting with wax and mixed media, and also fiber art, where I make collages using vintage textiles and embroidery.

Of course, there are always side avenues to tempt me. For a couple years, I’ve been fascinated with books, especially making books by hand. And that seems to be my most guilty art pleasure of all! As a productivity junkie, this one really trips my alarm system. These books I make become sketchbooks, and I fill them with little paintings, notes, sketches for future projects, or collages; but mostly, just abstract colored ink paintings, totally spontaneous, completely intuitive, made without one bit of forethought or any plan at all. Page after page of loose, slightly landscapish paintings in a hand bound book, that no one will ever see. It’s very easy for me to do. It takes no planning. In fact, the ease of it sometimes makes me uncomfortable: am I a lazy artist? Am I not challenging myself?

Since COVID emerged in March, I feel absolutely exhausted at the thought of starting a big painting or a month-long fiber art collage, the stuff I usually love doing, (and also work I feel “justifies” having my art studio space.) In daily life, and in the art studio, I often feel like I’m slogging through two feet of water; life just takes more effort. Lately, all the art I can manage to do is make sketchbooks and fill them up.

Meanwhile, my Productivity Demon goes absolutely batshit. He screams, “What a waste of time! You have a beautiful art studio, and all you want to do is doodle with colored inks at your desk! No one will ever see them! They’re not even good art! And making your own sketchbooks? Cutting all those pages, figuring out how to painstakingly stitch them together, making the covers, hours of technical labor that you’re not very good at, and so SLOW! Who CARES? For godsake, you could buy a blank sketchbook in a minute, like you used to do, and be done with it!”

My Productivity Demon is the brother of “The Art Committee”. The Art Committee always has tons of helpful criticism while I’m making art, trying to dissuade me from ever enjoying or appreciating my work. They’re relentless and sneaky. And mean! They work devilishly hard to suck every ounce of joy right out of anything I do on my own, anything that’s only purpose is actually, joy. And play. They tell me, if you think you’re a serious artist, then you know the only Real Art is work you can exhibit or sell. Huh, that’s a good one, because it’s COVID-19, and nobody’s actually buying art. But that doesn’t stop the Productivity Demon!

So I get derailed, and I try to direct my art attention towards other things, anything but filling up sketchbooks with private paintings. I’ve got a long to-do list! And we’re in a pandemic, and I’m unemployed, and now my career is in jeopardy, and I’ve been taking care of my mom which is a challenge, and we’re on the brink of an election which could extend the reign of an ignorant fascist who is hurting and killing people, and running our country into the ground. This is a lot.

Suddenly, talking about my art feels trivial. Our country is in crisis. And, so is my little world. So, for me to keep my head above water and connect to peace and happiness on any ordinary day, I’m drawn to the little things; the latte my husbutch, Sandy, makes me every morning – the blue jays and cardinals we know by sight, and have named, who come to our railing for their breakfast and dinner; hot days at the beach – online concerts – neighborhood walks and bike rides, and occasional backyard visits with local friends on weekends. And making little books, personal and intimate art, never to be seen or judged or sent into the marketplace. Just small wonky books filled with notes and paintings of inner landscapes, my own personal inner landscape of the moment. I still don’t know exactly why I make them. But I’ll sit down at my desk with my mixed feelings, the Art Committee and the Productivity Demon hissing from their perches in my brain, and I’ll grab a paintbrush and just dip it into the ink.

About her art, Liz says: Much of my painting is abstract, but I do create some representational work, too. My art explores love, time, celebration, being a woman and a lesbian, social commentary, and other things dear to my heart. And my textile art is unapologetically feminine; it’s even more girly than I am!

See Liz Nania’s work: www.liznania.com, and on Instagram at liz_nania_art.   

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com and let me shine a spotlight on your beautiful, unique, femme story! If you’ve written a femme story or poem or song, oh, please let me post it!

 New Femme Friday feature starting spring 2020: Queer Femmes Respond. Are you reading more poetry? Are you navigating various technologies in order to see your folx and not be so isolated? Are you still going out to work? Are you able to get out for walks? Who’s home with you? We queer femmes are meeting these unsettling times with queer femme panache, and I want to hear about it! Along the lines of the Corona Letters over at the Sewanee Review, please send in what you’re doing, how you’re staying centered and sane! Write me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com with questions or ideas or a full-on post (with bio, if possible)!

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”) As I recover from treatment for breast cancer, however, I’m just going to post whenever I can manage.

Published in: on September 11, 2020 at 11:34 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Queer Femmes Respond – “COVID Consumption” by Jill Klowden

Many a year has passed since Jill and I first met as new lesbian moms creating community for ourselves and our babies. We remain connected by so many shared memories, challenges, joys, and sorrows, and by our powerful femme sister love!

Deep gratitude to Jill for her beautiful, wise words, her vibrant queer and healing presence in the world and (lucky me!) in my life!

COVID Consumption

I have become a consumer of books, of loving looks, of love, of phone calls, zoom calls, of homemade food, of neighbor conversations, of long walks, deep breathing, long slow stretches and mindfulness

I am a giver of time, an ear, a glimpse, a touch, a vision, an angst, of good food grown from my garden, of poetry, cut flowers and backyard yoga

I am a holder of space for growth, exploration, development, laughter, deep dives into racism, into the meaning of life and of its counterpart, the non-meaning of everything

I am no longer a consumer of two showers a day, perfume, clothes, dry cleaning, high or low fashion, gas, nail salons, hair cuts, eating on the run, flying by or stopping by.  

I am a holder of space for intimacy while impotent, change that is unintended, intentional living, tears, grumpiness, sadness, grief, fear and loss…and love. 

Jill Klowden is a long-time public defender, an activist for Black lives and humanity, a queer mom of two compassionate humans, an ecstatic recent grandma – a “queerma” – an unabashed lover of people and all things beautiful, a faithful partner, a mindfulness practitioner, motorcyclist, a Jew and a proud fem.

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com and let me shine a spotlight on your beautiful, unique, femme story! If you’ve written a femme story or poem or song, oh, please let me post it!

 New Femme Friday feature starting spring 2020: Queer Femmes Respond. Are you reading more poetry? Are you navigating various technologies in order to see your folx and not be so isolated? Are you still going out to work? Are you able to get out for walks? Who’s home with you? We queer femmes are meeting these unsettling times with queer femme panache, and I want to hear about it! Along the lines of the Corona Letters over at the Sewanee Review, please send in what you’re doing, how you’re staying centered and sane! Write me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com with questions or ideas or a full-on post (with bio, if possible)!

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”) As I recover from treatment for breast cancer, however, I’m just going to post whenever I can manage.

Meditations for Queer Femmes — Catbird Morning

This very early morning on my walk, I almost bypassed the park, thinking the grass would be too wet, but then I remembered there’s a whole fenceful of blooming honeysuckle so I backtracked. There was a catbird on the ground in front of me, a beautiful, sleek, grey lovely. It hopped and flew a little, but didn’t fly away. I followed. It hopped onto a rock at the entrance of the park. I followed. We continued until it did finally fly off, right over the magnificent honeysuckle. I stood smelling and listening. The honeysuckle was full of bees.

I have been roiling with grief and anger, sometimes unbearably. All my life, I have had these spells, but they’re so much more epic these days, or rather, what sets them roiling is so huge. I can’t argue myself out of them, I can’t bust out a toolbox and fix them (although I have many tools, collected over the years, that come in handy), I certainly can’t “be reasonable” – I just have to get through and to get through I sometimes need to sit and sometimes need to move.

Lovely queer femme sisters, you too have sorrows and we all have the sorrows of the wounded world. May you connect with her and with yourself as best you can today, even if it’s the teensiest of direction switch. She is in you and of you and around you. The moon is growing and the Solstice resonates and illuminates. May you be human today. May you be reminded.

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes, in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”) As I recover from treatment for breast cancer, however, I’m just going to post whenever I can manage.

 

 

 

Meditations for Queer Femmes – Now, Not Now    

Living with mortality has never been easy for we humans; and it’s currently a hundred times weirder. It seems almost impossible to make decisions, large or small, everything seems to weighted. The word “coronertia” came to mind yesterday, making Tex and me laugh, since we often come to the end of the day and can’t remember what we did, let alone if we made any progress at all on any of the many projects we know we’d meant to get to. A couple weeks ago, I started writing everything down, just to prove to myself that I was indeed doing my work, bashing out a chore or two here and there and just generally going about life as best I could. My brain on pandemic is just as fritzy as can be.

Our friend who is a veterinary surgeon tells us that people who acquired puppies during quarantine are freaking out when she tells them the price of spaying or neutering. “But we’re out of work!” they protest, and she wonders why they didn’t think of that before getting a dog. I have sympathy for those folks, though, as impulsively as they may have acted. “Now,” they thought to themselves, “let’s finally go ahead and do it!”

Every day, every moment, we make decisions. We put off something we want, we force ourselves to do something we dislike but feel a responsibility towards, we wibble and wobble about other things. It’s hard enough at the best of times to sort through all of this – which things can wait, which things have come due and are calling our names so loudly our ears are ringing, which things have nothing to do with us and which things we can’t afford to ignore – but during a worldwide pandemic, I think our reasoning has taken a huge hit. “I don’t think I’ve ever busted my ass so hard in order to produce such mediocre work,” a zoom-weary friend complained recently.

You have heard it before, my stressed out and suffering queer femme sisters, but hear it from me today: be gentle with yourselves. If you can’t decide, put it down. If you pray, pray about it. If you don’t, perhaps the answer will come to you in a dream, or after you’ve taken a walk, or stood barefoot on the grass or sipped a cup of fragrant tea or finally allowed yourself to take a nap. Allow for the idea that whatever you’re fretting about, it may already be good enough, done enough, big enough, gorgeous enough, or that it might not look like what you expected but it’s robust and jolly and will get the job done.

When you ask yourselves, for the umpteenth time today, Now? Not now? open your hands and unclench; open your hearts and find that frequency, your own steady pulse, the low, sweet hum of connection to ancestors, family, the river of love that is the sisterhood of queer femmes, the delicious spring, the always possible. You are surrounded and held, by your own dear body, your community, your spirit, the great sweep of things of which you are one dazzling and resplendent spark.

I know you will move forward with grace.

 

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes, in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”) As recover from treatment for breast cancer, however, I’m just going to post whenever I can manage.

 

 

 

Published in: on May 25, 2020 at 5:04 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Meditations for Queer Femmes – Better

Our old dog has recently begun to prefer outings over walks. He and I go to a field or a park, and he sniffs around, eats a little grass, does some rolling, does his business, does some more rolling, and then just hangs out, enjoying being outside. It’s good for him, but kind of static for me, waiting there at the other end of the leash, so the other day, I got a fresh poop bag and started picking up trash. Lots of cigarette butts. That little bit of park looked a lot better after he and had been there that day.

It can be annoying to feel that you have to clean up someone else’s mess, and if I thought too hard about it, I could be pretty upset by my fellow humans who so cavalierly squish out their cigarettes in the nice grass of a public park, but not the other day. Doing a bit of tidying helped me out – the dog got a longer, more satisfying outing because I wasn’t bored and antsy – and it was even kind of meditative.

There are so many little ways we can make things better. It doesn’t have to be the grandest gesture or affect the most people or command the attention of the whole wide world or tire us out and work us to the bone. Sometimes all it takes to make a positive shift is to walk into the room smiling.

Scintillating and frabjous queer femme marvels, today take a moment to know that you have made a difference in the world. You have made a difference by being just exactly who you are with the ideas that you have and the abilities you express.

You have made things better.

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes, in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”) As recover from treatment for breast cancer, however, I’m just going to post whenever I can manage.

 

 

Published in: on May 11, 2020 at 4:42 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Meditations for Queer Femmes – Depths

Chemo is hard as shit and it’s really kicking my ass today. I can’t believe I have to do this two more times. I’m scared I won’t be able to. I asked my butch husband Tex if she was sick of my punk-ass self, and she said no, not of me, but of this illness and the process – she’s awfully sorry I have to go through it, but she’s very clear that it’s saving my life. I said I’m afraid it’s hurting me in some other really profound ways at the same time, and she said that we’ll get to that healing when we get to it. Right now, we have to focus on the two more games in the tournament.

She said that if the US and Netherland teams had to play all the time as hard and full-on as they did yesterday in the World Cup Final, they wouldn’t last. People would get hurt, people would collapse from heat exhaustion, and someone might even die. But for those two 45-minute halves, the women went all out. Because that’s what they do. Because they’re strong. Because they’ve trained for it and because they are completely on board.

She said that I’m strong and I’ve trained for it and I’m completely on board. That I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing.

And all I could say, through tears, was, “Thanks, Coach!”

Sweet stoic femme beloveds, you, too, are so strong in your souls. Whatever hard thing you’re doing right now, know that you can get through it. You can get through it with your big heart, by accepting help, by surrendering and accepting, by being grateful, by feeling your anger and regrets and allowing them to dissipate as all emotions do dissipate, like weather. You aren’t alone – I’m down here with you, I’m rooting for you, just as I know you’re rooting for me, and together our femme power and love keeps our dear life’s energy moving forward in those channels of beauty and marvel. In the beautiful game.

https://lgbt.10ztalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Megan-Rapinoe-Photo-At-World-Cup-Becomes-Hilarious-Meme.jpg

Megan Rapinoe, posing after her goal at the Women’s World Cup, 2019

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, kind, and wise and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”)

 

 

Meditations for Queer Femmes – Seen, Held, Loved

Last week when I went to get my labs done at the oncology clinic, I rode the elevator down with a pair of queers I know from around. They didn’t recognize me, I don’t think, and I tried to give them a lot privacy, as it seemed one of them was dealing with a recent cancer diagnosis and I didn’t want to intrude. But I did feel great sympathy for them, being just that little bit further along in the process. And I did see them. Later, in the car, I even wept for them.

Every queer I know has stories about being harassed in the bathroom, the changing room, the locker room, and out in public, and femmes who are usually invisible become hypervigilent when they’re walking out with queer friends who are more visibly not-straight. We are always on alert when not on friendly ground (my shoulders drop about six inches when I’m in Provincetown…), constantly having to deal with other people’s reaction to our appearance (or our coming out) and the meaning they slap onto it. Seeing those queers in the elevator, witnessing their uncertainty and pain, feeling so much compassion and love for them, made me think, though. I saw and held them; I’m still holding them, but it’s unlikely they’ll ever know that there was a femme in the elevator the other day giving them so much heart. And that means I bet I get seen and loved on by other queers when I’m out and about way more than I know, that there is queer love coming at me, surrounding me.

Bodacious, sweet o’ my heart, generous and complicated femme sisters, I know you got it to give, but today, remember to receive. We are everywhere and even if we don’t nod or wink, we see each other much more than we might imagine. When you walk out, make room for a little queer love to come on into your queer femme bosom, because your presence in the world is a joy and a blessing, and it does not go unnoticed.

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, kind, and wise and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”)

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on June 17, 2019 at 5:17 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Meditations for Queer Femmes – Our Cherished and Neglected Gifts

For me, creativity is paramount. I am an acolyte and a worshiper of creativity. It was a beautiful moment when I realized that my creativity permeates everything I do, that it’s not just for my writing. This freed me up and helped me understand that I haven’t been wasting my time when I’m not able to write; I’ve still been accessing a bubbling well of creativity, a well that will never run dry.

However, even though, like love, creativity is unlimited, what I have trouble remembering is that I have my own physical, emotional and spiritual limits. If I spend hours and hours dreaming up more and more exciting and unique projects for my students, I go to bed never having touched the YA manuscript that is waiting patiently for me. If I can remember to trust that my creativity will be with me when I’m teaching, which it pretty much always is, then even the most mundane lesson will become exciting and useful, and the energy I still have can be used on my most cherished and neglected gift, writing.

“Why do I run from what I love the most?” Tex lamented to me the other day. She’s been drawing and painting again, something she’s always loved but had neglected for many years. “So why is it so difficult to just draw?” I don’t really know, but it’s certainly something I ask about my own writing. Is it that I’m afraid I’ll fail? That it will suck me in and I’ll never want to do anything else?

Perhaps it has something to do with being someone, like Tex, who is blessed with multiple interests, especially when some of those interests, like teaching or organizing, are rewarded so tangibly in that I’m paid for my work or I can see the results of organizing an event for young queer people very clearly and right away.

Not so much with writing. It’s hard, it’s lonely, and a lot has to be taken on faith: I truly believe that there are readers out there who feel a little less alone because they read one of my stories and felt a connection, but it’s unlikely I’ll ever really know the exact impact of my work.

A lot of the time, my many interests feel like noisy fledglings, all demanding to be fed. It’s exhausting! If I take on the role of mama bird, I can never settle down, since if I stop stuffing worms down the babies, they might die. But hold on, maybe that’s the wrong metaphor. Gems. What about gems? Gems never stop shining, even if they get buried in the dirt for a while. And even if you never go back to them, someone else might dig them up later and they will shine for that person just as much as they ever did for you. And if the other babies aren’t going to die, why can’t this harried mama bird choose to surrender to the love of her life? Choose to drink those deeper draughts that nourish the more complex and difficult creative work of writing?

I wonder, femme sisters, what is your cherished and neglected gift? Whatever it is, would you, for me, brush off the dirt, give it a little shine with your sleeve, and hold it up to the sunlight so that we might all bathe in the radiance?

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, kind, and wise and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”)

 

Published in: on October 29, 2018 at 4:26 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Meditations for Queer Femmes – Always Being Everything

Women’s Week in Provincetown, MA is always a highlight of my year. One of the highlights of this year’s Women’s Week was Mimi Gonzalez’s writing workshop. One beautiful sunny morning, we met in the parlor at Roux, a lesbian-owned inn on Bradford St.. There were about 10 of us, including the owners of Roux themselves. Mimi started out by welcoming us, letting us know that she wanted to create safe space for us to be in community, and that she was offering this workshop in that spirit, passing on love she herself received in her recently-completed MFA program.

Quoting the gospel of Thomas, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you,” Mimi asked us to give ourselves the gift of being present, of bringing forth, especially if we’ve denied this impulse in the past. Then we did a free-write responding to the prompt of centering yourself in space, landing in your body, where you are right now, and how you feel. We were asked to keep the pen moving on the paper for five minutes.

Sisters. Five minutes. In just five minutes, I brought forth so much. An excerpt:

The sun on our backs coming into this orange room onto Mimi’s beautiful curly hair and I am here with someone from the publishing panel and a femme colleague and my friend from the Fun Run and am I here as a writer or as a teacher? Observing Mimi’s generous, lovely, sweet presence as she welcomes and loves us into this space – can I just be a writer? Do I always have to be everything – writer, activist, teacher, editor, professional queer? Can I give myself the gift of coming right into my writer’s soul and the soul of my writing – what I have been praying for?

It was Tex who pointed out to me that I’m always working. It just never occurred to me that taking notes on books and newspaper articles, analyzing movies and tv shows, jotting down things heard on the radio that connect to projects I’m working on, or may work on in the future, was work. It’s just how I do, how I relate to the world. But it is work, and it can also get in the way – ok, it almost always gets in the way – of relaxing, just being, just experiencing. One more email, one more note, one more intense discussion about my theory on this or that public figure or movie… This happens so frequently that Tex asked to implement a No Intense Discussions First Thing in the Morning rule so she could get out the door to work in good trim, and I do my best to comply, despite being READY TO ROCK when I wake up, partly due to not being able to turn off my brain.

I would not be surprised if many of you, my queer femme sisters, sometimes find yourselves in a similar dilemma, especially about the more quiet parts of your natures, say, the part of you that would like to finally plant something in that sweet patch of earth outside, or take time to learn more about the utterly amazing horseshoe crabs, or write or draw or just sit and be for land’s sake – anything that requires shutting off the busy and drawing down deep on the soul.

Busy is rewarded, and queers seem to be particularly prone, thank you homophobia, heterosexism, misogyny and all your foul relatives. We feel the pull to provide, model, mentor, teach, accompany, rescue, proclaim, produce, react, educate, and on and on, when maybe, just maybe, all of that could be accomplished in dropping everything but one thing. Not forever, not for always, but for sometimes. Can you give yourself the now-and-again gift of “just” being a gardener? A lover? A poet? If so, the energy that is flittery and far-flung, your precious, unique, amazing femme energy, will pool and thicken, turn rich, potent, delicious. Don’t think product; think connection. Connection to systems of love, bolstering them rather than armoring up and fighting systems of oppression. Of course we need to do both. But personally, I spend almost all of my time on the latter instead of the former, when I am beginning to understand that the former is the one that can really fuel revolution.

My darlings, today honor your revolutionary femme energy with the soul-nourishing freedom to be still. Go deep. Be and be and be just one thing today.

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, kind, and wise and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”)

 

Meditations for Queer Femmes – Your Family Heirloom

We queers have such complicated relationships with our families. There’s full-on rejection, full-on idealization and “I’ll do anything to keep the love” and everything in-between. I’m talking about families across the board here, of origin and chosen. How many of us queer femmes dated boys and men because our families of origin expected it? How many of us queer femmes de-girlied ourselves when we (finally) came out because our new queer family expected it? Then one day, if we’re lucky, another dyke tells us she likes it when we wear lipstick. Maybe we have enough courage to tell her we like it when she wears lipstick, too, or we buy her a tie for her birthday “just for fun” and shit gets way more real all of a sudden. Or we might realize our single aunt, the one who moved away to a big city or to a remote farm and who has always been spoken of with scorn or pity or both, is actually twice family and has a rich and rewarding life. Information about her real life may have been unavailable to us as children, but it is waiting for us now if we just reach out.

Humans love knowing where we come from, where certain traits, tendencies, gifts and hurdles might have their origin. Who in our families (all our families) might have worked out a thing or two concerning life’s great questions.

I started thinking about family heirlooms after reading a passage by Chögyam Trungpa in his book, Crazy Wisdom. The passage is about hopelessness, which I think ends up actually being about hope, or anyway, about accepting that life can be really hard right at the same time that it is full of sweetness and wonder. In Al-Anon, they talk about “the gift of desperation” that brings someone to this under-the-radar (at least it was for me) spiritual program. And it’s true, because as much as I hate alcoholism and addiction and how they’ve hurt so many people I love including myself, I’m incredibly grateful that I’m learning to stop spending all my time drilling down on the negatives and being miserable. Instead, I’m finding the strength, support and love to be able recalibrate and refocus. Human experience is big. There are so many ways of being in the world.

Our family heirlooms – because there are so many once we direct our attention there – are solid reminders of our humanity in all its rainbow glory. I remember and draw sustenance from the way my Gramps took care of kids in his rural school district during the Depression, feeding them from his garden, buying one young man a suit so he could graduate high school with dignity; from the cheerful example of Grandmimi, who lit up her small Iowa town organizing and including and fully participating in just about everything; how my parents quietly reached out to neighbors and taught me that one little act of kindness and community ripples outward; how John Preston and Joan Nestle got together to edit Sister and Brother: Lesbians and Gay Men Write About Their Lives Together and model deep queer community by linking their disparate queer worlds; by the way Lee Lynch lovingly wrote and wrote and wrote and continues to write about butches and femmes; how so many queers over the ages managed to leave us their priceless stories – a few who have touched my life over the years (there are so many!): Miss Ann Lister, Quentin Crisp, Anonymous, Amber Hollibaugh, Audre Lourde, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Leslie Feinberg, Richard Rodriguez, Felice Picano, Chrystos, Mary Renault, Tove Jansson, Becky Birtha, Mark Merlis, Samuel Steward, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, James Baldwin, and I could go on for pages…

I am bolstered and inspired in who I am and who I strive to by these many, many family heirlooms.

Dear queer femme sisters, spend a moment today in gratitude for your families and what they have bequeathed to you.

 

The passage that inspired this Meditation:

Student: When you talk about hopelessness, the whole thing seems totally depressing. And it seems you could very well be overwhelmed by that depression to the point where you just retreat into a shell or insanity.

 Trungpa Rinpoche: It’s up to you. It’s completely up to you. That’s the whole point.

 S: Is there anything –

 TR: You see, the whole point is that I’m not manufacturing an absolute model of hopelessness with complete and delicately worked-out patterns of all kinds, presenting it to you, and asking you to work on that. Your goodness, your hopelessness, is the only model there is. If I manufactured something, it would be just a trick, unrealistic. Rather, it’s your hopelessness, it’s your world, your family heirloom, your inheritance. That hopelessness comes in your existence, your psychology. It’s a matter of bringing it out as it is. But it’s still hopeless. As hopeful as you might try to make it, it’s still hopeless, and I can’t reshape it, remodel it, or refinish it at all. It’s not like a political candidate going on television, where people powder his face and put lipstick on his mouth to make him presentable. One cannot do that. In this case it’s hopeless; it’s absolutely hopeless. You have to do it in your own way.

–Crazy Wisdom by Chögyam Trungpa, Shambhala, 2001

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, kind, and wise and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”)