Happy New Year! All of you is welcome here.
Updated: a day ago
(dispatches from another weird year - sent as newsletter and now as if by magic: blog post!)
"All of you is welcome here."
I first heard this phrase from Arielle Schwartz last month while doing her training on applying polyvagal theory to therapeutic yoga. She says this at least once during her yoga classes, and now so do I. Then I heard myself saying it during my morning meditation. And I cried.
Imagine. All of you being welcome. Not slicing and dicing parts off to please someone or some idea of who you should be that someone else taught you before you could object, not judging yourself as less than, or cutting off a part that has been traumatized into silence or a way of seeing that doesn’t make sense because it's not neurotypical or is somehow marginalized and you are sick of always feeling like an outsider?
This phrase is what I will bring with me into 2022, and I invite you to as well. Perhaps say this to others and yourself at least once a day: All of you is welcome here.
This is the spirit of my new yoga classes, which I just began teaching again (on Zoom), integrating the training from Dr. Schwartz and also Linda Thai that offers somatic strategies to help smooth out our strained nervous systems via the vagus nerve. This is the work I have been doing to heal myself from long-haul COVID, which triggered CPTSD that knocked my autonomic nervous system out of whack. While working on the radical acceptance embedded in my Kripalu yoga practice, these other healing practices aid in allowing the body to respond to cues of safety. In my case it offers a counter cue to the internal smoke alarm that never goes off thanks to early childhood trauma. After the last two years, most everyone has nervous system issues from the ongoing trauma of living with COVID, whether they have gotten sick or not. I am so grateful to be able to now offer what I have learned to others. You can find more information and how to register for yoga here.
This same welcoming attitude applies to my writing workshops, where we focus not on asking authors to hew to the same rules of style and form, but on helping each person find their own way to allow for what wants to emerge from them. This is powerful work that leads to unique, strong voices telling urgent stories we need to hear. If you would like to start off your new year with this kind of support, there is one space available now in the next Thursday group that begins January 20. If you are interested, contact me soon, since these spots usually go quickly.
My biggest news of the year is that I was diagnosed on the autism spectrum in April. I did not announce it at the time because wanted to process the information, which is in fact a huge relief because it explains So Much. I did write a blog post about this in July and posted it on the socials, thanking some of the authors who helped me come to this understanding and realize I could 'come out' about it. It is a fabulous community to join, and I am so proud to be part of it.
Coming out as to who I am to myself and others has led to new openings, connections, and possibilities. I was scared to tell people at age 58 that I am autistic. I mean I masked so well, right? Why break the spell? Especially since I am self-employed. Won't people run screaming? But after a few months I decided to announce it because without doing so I am living in shame and helping propagate the myth of autism as only looking male and like Rain Man or Sheldon on Big Bang Theory. Women being diagnosed on the spectrum, especially adult women, is a new phenomenon. My blog post goes into a lot of this, so am not going to repeat it here, but to come out as autistic is a way of unmasking and taking ownership of all of me. All of you is welcome here.
The vast majority of my friends, colleagues, and clients have been wonderful about this news. My favorite response came a few days ago from a friend and neighbor I have not seen in a while who cocked his head to one side and said, "But that's good, right?" I smiled (under my mask) and said, "Yes! Thank you for getting it!" I have noticed that people who have had struggles in their lives and who work hard to understand themselves get this intuitively, whether autistic or not. My husband John has been very supportive as have all friends who have known me since forever. Because I am still me, just a lot happier for knowing who I am—not a broken toy just someone with a bespoke brain. I didn't know until diagnosis and understanding autism beyond the stereotypes that the unheard, unseen, and unrecognized I have always championed includes me.
I am integrating the clarity of knowing I am autistic into my memoir, which I originally wrote before the diagnosis, so am having to molecularly reframe the text—not to mention my whole identity for over five decades—which is both daunting and incredibly exciting. I understand now why some aspects of even trauma work did not take, because some responses are not trauma-based, but are baked in neurologically as different ways of perceiving and experiencing the world. They are not to be 'fixed' but instead accepted, which is a revelation.
As for publications this year, the Prairie Schooner essay Ode to Irresponsibilitydid come out, as did my COVID essay Epistedemiology: 99 Days in the wonderful Heavy Feather Review. An essay that is drawn from the memoir-in-progress was published in May by the fabulous (Re) An Ideas Journal, Kali in Westray. Forthcoming in March 2022 in [PANK] Vol 16-17 will be a short story I wrote right at the beginning of the pandemic that took a while to find a home: Red Hots.
I had a private reading of a draft of a new play on Zoom entitled Respairation or you have to unmute yourself. An excerpt will be part of the IATI March Women's festival curated by Yani Perez, so stay tuned for that!
I did more painting with oils in 2021, including the self-portrait at top of this newsletter and the path in Inwood Hill Park below. People bought a few of the paintings, which was as thrilling as it was unexpected. However, when I went to Peaks Island, Maine for a month in July (and what a gift that was!) to work on my book proposal that led to agent that led to more work on book, I stopped painting. I seem to not be able to write and paint at the same time. I am hoping for enough of a break at some point to get back into the painting again.
I am, however, happy that I am healing enough from long haul COVID that I can write and think again on the level necessary to contemplate and execute a book. This was not available to me at all at this time last year. While 2021 has been insane and is not ending in a kind way (thanks Omicron!), it has led me away from health crisis back to my more normal frustrations and concerns. Having just attended a memorial for a friend from college on Zoom yesterday, I am acutely aware of how precious and short this life is. I pray we all find ways to embrace and enjoy our time here this year.
I hope to share more good news in 2022 as my work makes it out into the world—fingers crossed. For Dick and Jani fans and supporters, have been asked to write an essay about my radical grandmother Jani and her 1970s writing about having great sex in her sixties, which was so far ahead of its time as to never be published. But now? It's a hot topic. In more ways than one. Stay tuned! Maybe that will finally peak a publisher's interest. (Yes, I know, I know, the puns...what can I say, they write themselves!)
OK, my uptown neighborhood is kicking off for New Year's Eve, so I'm going to post this and hope to communicate sometime before end of year 2022. Get in touch anytime if I can help you with writing, yoga, theater, painting…you name it. The Unadapted Ones keep on expanding.
I am so grateful for all the connection, support, and friendship shared throughout the year with so many of you, including entrusting me with your writing process in workshops and coaching sessions and your presence in yoga classes. And of course to those of you who purchased paintings, published my writing, and signed me as an author, you all rock my world. My dearest hope is that we can all see each other in person again sometime in 2022!
Until then, may your long and winding road lead you home—wherever that may show up for you this year.