How to Be, Part II: Holy Saturday

Continued from How to Be, Part I: Two Words


Saying “I’m a perfectionist” is another way of saying “I’m never gonna get it right.”     -Ana Castillo


Holy Saturday I spent the morning in Chimayó in a Spiritual Memoir Writing workshop led by Ana Castillo. Prior to the workshop, she had asked each of us to prepare a question about memoir writing and to bring an object that symbolizes our current spiritual questions.

There was a time when writing was my spiritual practice. I lived alone. Every morning I’d write in my journal. I’d eat a simple breakfast—yogurt with granola and papaya from the mercado, a cafecito or te de yerba buena. I’d light a white devotional candle and sit in the company of my own words and stories. I wrote Malinche’s Daughter. I sketched Vessel. I was on a Fulbright in Oaxaca, Mexico, teaching Writing to Heal workshops for women. I was a student in the low-residency MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I knew even then how good I had it, how supported I felt; I wished my life on every writer. It was as close to perfect as could be.

Malinche’s Daughter came out, and I returned to a place that no longer felt like home. I had graduate school loans to pay. I needed a job and a place to live. I missed Oaxaca. I missed that life.

If you’ve read my blog, you know that I got a job and signed a one-year lease on a sunny downtown apartment with wood floors and high ceilings. You know that I met Henry and—in an unrelated move—left that job. You know that Henry and I would eventually get married and that his two children would someday become my family. You also know that somewhere in the job-leaving and apartment-living and memoir-writing and Henry-loving, while I was visiting friends in Mexico, my apartment burned to an ugly, uninhabitable heap.

I spent the first several weeks of this year revising “The New Normal,” a short play about the fire, about loss and new life, and coming to live with Henry and the kids. I performed the first ten minutes of the play as part of Hembras de Pluma, nine original plays by nine original mujeres. Early in our rehearsal process, my director Valli Rivera asked me to walk my piece. We had divided the stage into three realms: the apartment, Henry’s house, and limbo. The stage was sparsely set with a desk, a clothing rack, and the pink suitcase that came with me from Mexico to Henry’s house. It wasn’t until I broke down at the desk that I understood how deeply embedded in me the fire still was. It wasn’t until I performed with Hembras that I understood how much I missed solitude, my journal, quiet, stillness, how much I missed my spiritual practice.

I told Ana about the fire. I told her I’m a perfectionist. I asked her how to go deep when I have only 15 minutes. I want to know how to get unstuck, which I’ve just mistyped as “unsuck.” How do I unsuck? How do I get out of my own way?

Published in: on April 22, 2014 at 6:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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