My OHSU writing group is officially 2 years old today! And every week, I'm so happy it's a thing that exists, and that I get to sit around writing stories with wonderful people who find new, really cool stories to tell all the time. This week I learned one of these people is gonna scan all his stories and choose ones he wants to continue to work on and expand - someday he'll write a book. Last week I learned one of these people is joining Portland Storytellers Guild and is going to start telling her stories on stage. I don't know how anything could possibly be more awesome.
As I reflect on the last two years, I’m looking back at my old notebook I started the group with, and reading the first entries I ever wrote down. The first of which I already turned into a little video a few months ago:
“There is some point at which making something requires you to unmake something else. We chop down trees to make pencils. To make furniture, to make homes…”
My writing groups typically consist of three writing prompts -- that's three opportunities to write silently and share your writing with others. These are the other two pieces I wrote at that very first group on March 9th, 2016:
It’s hard to change the person people already think you are. There’s a little girl who always hated spinach. She’s eighteen now but hating spinach is kind of her thing. Ice cream and chocolate are her thing. And Tweety Bird – everyone knows her for her love of Tweety Bird dear god there is so much yellow in her room. How can she stop the train that’s already moving?
Maybe this is why she moves away to college out of town. Just so she can get away from the ice cream and the Looney Tunes and take up jogging in the mornings without anyone incredulously raising their eyebrows at her and saying “YOU? Jogging?” As if it’s so impossible for someone to decide one day, out of the blue, that now they do like jazz music and actually yes sometimes they go hiking just for fun and not because anyone is making them.
Otherwise, sometimes the threat of the sound in someone’s voice questioning whether or not she’s really the kind of person who does any particular kind of thing might be enough to stop her. She feels ridiculous about this and she isn’t sure exactly where this comes from. She likes to be consistent and she doesn’t like to disappoint.
When the little girl is an adult she gets very sick and she realizes she could have been any kind of person in the whole world and it would have been just fine. After all, people were so ready to accept the version of her she did not choose.
I knew the ground was soft but I didn’t want to fall anyway. I just hung there frozen at the top of the climbing gym, gripping for dear life to the top of the wall. I had climbed it. I was up. I was triumphant. This was the goal I was working towards. I looked down. How was I going to get down?
“Just let go!” Matt called from the padded, cushiony floor about twelve feet beneath me. I shifted my feet to attempt to climb down carefully and shakily as I had climbed up.
“Just drop!” he said. “You’ll be fine!” I kept climbing down, slowly, methodically. He was good at this and I wasn’t. He says things offhandedly without thinking them through first. He drives his car above the speed limit. He takes chances. He travels to foreign countries. He falls in love with whoever he wants.
I don’t do any of these things. I climb downwards slowly and I don’t let go. It’s only when I fall on accident that I realize he was right, and I’m fine.
(Since that day I've also learned to rock climb! How times have changed.)
If you or anyone you know has cancer and likes writing (or is kind of indifferent to writing but likes a good challenge), come over to OHSU and hang out with me every Wednesday night. Soon, I'll also be doing Mondays in Sellwood at Sunrise Daisy Retreat. Sign-ups will open soon!