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Women Who Write: Antoinette Bumekpor, Interviewed by Paulina Pinsky

Antoinette Bumekpor and I enter the office and immediately can feel the energy of the room– a room we both have not spent time in. Although I never met her, I know it is a privilege to stand in the office of the deeply loved and deeply missed Lucie Brock-Broido, the late Professor and Director of the Poetry Concentration. The color red floods the room, as do skulls and doll parts and other mismatched knick-knacks.

Antoinette embodies stillness, even in a space flooded with noisy objects. When she walks into a room, there’s a significant shift in energy that is hard to place until you set eyes on her– open eyes, a smile cracking open her lips. I met Antoinette through CA/T (Columbia Artists and Teachers), an organization that provides training for all Columbia MFA students, enabling community enrichment through the arts throughout the city. As coordinator, it was Antoinette’s job to assess all applications, including mine. I had minimal teaching experience, Antoinette has fifteen years worth– she was the right person for the job.  My first time teaching at Gilda’s Club, she was there to observe (and watch me miserably fail– that’s another story for another time). However, despite my missteps, she took the time to sit with my co-teacher and me and talk strategy: what happened and how do we fix it for next time.

So far in this column, I have only had the opportunity to interview nonfiction writers. However, I was left wondering where women in other cohorts of the MFA land– do fiction writers have this problem of self-identification? Do poets see themselves as poets? As writers? As simply their astrological sign?

Moments before we stood in Lucie’s office, Antoinette shared an insight from her weekend silence retreat in regards to her writing– she wrote eight new poems for her thesis workshop over the weekend, to which I said, “… Can I interview you real quick?” Lucie’s office was the only office open at noon on a Tuesday, the Chair’s Fellows hadn’t even started their weekly meeting yet, and so we went in and I closed the door.

This is what I want my office to be like in the future. There’s skulls in here, but that makes me feel comfortable.

She laughs

So, where are you from?

Where am I from? I claim many places.

What a beautiful answer!

She laughs

I was born in Jamaica, I grew up in the projects in New York city– so both Harlem and the Bronx. And, I was partially raised by my mother’s ex-mother-in-law, who’s from the South. Post-college, I just moved all over the place and landed in California for the past fifteen years, so I have some of that energy. So now I’m back. My husband’s from Ghana and I’ve been there a couple times, too. I’ve just absorbed all of these different cultures.

That’s incredible.

And they’re all a part of me.

Interacting with you, I can’t place where you’re from– usually when you meet someone, you can tell by how they speak. But it’s hard to place where you’re from [without knowing], which is really cool. It’s distinct.

It’s language. And I’ve looked at language ever since I was small because the way I spoke has always been observed in whatever communities I’m a part of. Some people say, “Why don’t you have more of a Jamaican accent?” And I came here when I was four, and when I came, Jamaicans weren’t popular. So, to have an accent would be to attract negative attention towards us. African-American folks tried to jump us– me and my brother. Yeah, we had to learn how to fight.

And then, my mother’s goal was to assimilate, and so I was always scolded that I should speak “proper” English. But then I grew up in the projects, so speaking “proper” English didn’t really help me fit in there either.

So yeah, I just didn’t fit in anywhere. So, yeah.

She laughs

I am so interested by the concept of code-switching. Especially in an institution like this, like that’s a whole other thing. The impulse, or the idea of making someone code-switch, embarrasses me? Like, why can’t people just be their self? But there is a code in every space, you have to read the room. And especially if you embody so many different places, like, where do you land?

And there lies the confusion. And so I am so, at this point, I’m used to just not fitting in and not seeing it as something wrong.

That’s so awesome.

And so, growing up in the projects and going away to Cornell for undergrad, I remember coming back after my first year. And someone that I grew up with was saying something to me, and I said, “What?” And he repeated it, “I’m sorry, what?” And he repeated it a third time, and I said, “I have no idea what you are saying.”

I laugh

And he assumed, “Wow, you must hang out with a lot of white people up at your school.” And I just said, “Actually, I don’t. No. I hang out with a lot of black people, and I still don’t know what you’re saying.”

Well, you were a teacher for a long time. That was in California?

Yes. Oakland, Oakland public schools.

Wow. How did you get from Cornell to Oakland public schools?

My whole intention was to get away from my relatives. That was it. That was what I was being led by.

I can relate to that.

There came a certain point, though, where I understood that transformation had occurred because instead of running away from something, I switched to running towards something. And that’s when I knew my relatives had no more power over me.

And so, when I was at Cornell, I remember the first summer I came back to New York City because my mother asked me to come back– so I grew up in a completely abusive household, but culturally appropriate household. So it was abusive only in the context of America. So one of my mother’s regrets had been that she raised her children in America because the way she beat us would have been considered good parenting and discipline– except for the fact that we were in America, so then we didn’t understand the “good parenting” that she imposed on us.

Interesting.

So then growing up with that, and having all of these Jamaicans around me saying that something was wrong with me for how I felt. One time I cried and my mother asked, “What are you, a white girl?” And I’m just like, “Black people have tear ducts, too.”

Yeah!

I cry. So I needed to get away from that context, so I vowed to never spend another summer break in New York City. And at the time, I was studying French, and I said, “Okay! Let me renew my passport! I will go where people speak French.” And I just started traveling. And once I started the traveling, I remember one of my relatives saying, “Wow, it’s so great that you travel.” And I’m just thinking, “But you don’t know the reason I travel is to get away from you!”

I laugh

Once college was over, sometimes people move back to where they had come from. So I just started looking out, where else could I go. After being in Ithaca, I was given a job in Buffalo, New York. And then from there went to Chicago. And then from there went to Arizona. And then, just thought, “Oh shit, why am I in Arizona?”

We laugh

And I was dating this guy that was from Arizona, and I turned to him and I said, “You know I must leave this place, right?” He said, “I know.”

I looked at a map, California looked pretty close. Got a U-Haul and packed up all of my things, and it only dawned on me when I saw the sign that said, “Welcome to California” on the highway, I realized, “Oh my goodness, I’m going to California!”

We laugh

And that’s what had me end up all the way in California– and there was a certain point where my mother’s reach went from the East Coast to the West Coast. And I thought, “Okay, I need to leave California, too.” So I had this vision of me with a backpack just disappearing into fog– but then I didn’t have the money to go to Hawaii, or any other place. So I  came to the conclusion: “Fine, I’m just here in California, and apparently I can’t go past the specific in this moment.”

She laughs

Wow, that is so bold and brave.

Or desperate! Depending on what that impulse that is leading you. So, yeah! People interpret it as brave, but– what’s the saying, “The devil you know–

The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know? I’m probably wrong.

Yeah– whatever it is, it was the reverse for me. The devil I don’t know has got to be better than the devil I do know. That’s all that was.

Your life experience is so rich. How old are you? I’m sorry, that’s a rude question.

Oh, it’s not! I don’t show my age. I’m forty.

I literally stand up from my seat

You are forty?! Are you joking me?

She laughs

I turn 41 in July. ‘77! Woohoo! And I still get pimples.

She laughs again

You are forty.

I am.

Melanin.

She laughs

Like, I don’t understand why white-eurocentric features are the beauty standard– I mean, I understand because of colonialism. But like, every other ethnicity is so– like you are forty? Look at a white forty year-old. Like, you know what I mean?

She laughs

Yeah.

You look incredible. Like, holy shit.

Yeah, my husband is younger than me! He’s– I forget– thirty-something.

I laugh

Four years younger. When we met, he didn’t know my age. And in his culture, he has a relationship with elders in that there’s such a distance. He didn’t know that I was an elder. By the time he had figured out my age, it was already too late. He was just enraptured.

I laugh

Damn. Well, okay. You were a teacher in Oakland. You’re also the head of CA/T, so teaching is a huge part of who you are. You’re an excellent teacher, I can say that for certain because I have learned a lot from you. Charting the course to here: what brought you to Columbia.

Thank you! It’s weird how I got to the place [of becoming a teacher]. But I’ve always been great with words. My husband calls me “a talkative”. Growing up I was always called, “nosey”. Now the word is “inquisitive”. And then because of the immigrant dream, American Dream, then when people tried to place where my skills would best be used, in a bragging rights kind of way– back home– then they said I would be a lawyer. And that’s actually why I was in Arizona, I was in Law School for one year, but then I had to leave because it was too racist.

Arizona is the worst.

There was a third year African-American student, where I asked, “How do you deal with the things that happen here?” And he said, “Don’t worry about it, you’ll get used to it.” And I said, “Okay! Time to go!”

I used to wear head wraps and afros, and I remember that someone from Admissions came to speak to me because they wanted to take pictures of me to be in the brochure.

You were the diversity token.

Yeah, and I said, “Nope. I’m leaving. And I would rather use your J.D. to wipe my behind than to put it up on my wall.”

I laugh

When I moved in with my friend in California, she had just finished Teach for America. I started at an after-school program doing small, small things, but then people started to recognize that I had a good head on my shoulders and I knew what I was doing. So then my responsibilities grew and grew.

A teacher went on maternity leave and asked if I could be a substitute teacher. She also wanted me to be her substitute teacher because I was “The Mean” teacher, and she was “The Mean” teacher. And so she thought someone aligned with her meanness would work perfectly for her class. The kids were afraid of me– justifiably so. I was kind of scary and I can be intense.

We laugh

I was telling a friend from Cornell, “I’m gonna be a teacher,” and she was like, “Who let you be around children?”

I laugh

Wait, what is your sign?

Cancer. And so then I did the testing things and became the substitute teacher. But what that teacher didn’t realize is that even though I have that hard outer shell– I’m just a softy. And I’m pretty cool!

That’s how most mean people are– soft on the inside.

Yeah! So her students, after a couple weeks I was just the best person ever, they didn’t want their teacher to come back. That was a problem.

And my grandmother– or, the southern grandmother that I was raised with– I was complaining a lot to her. The teacher wouldn’t stay on maternity leave! And so my grandmother said, “Get yo own classroom then.”

Everything you have told me today is just, “I wanted to do something, so I did it.”

Yeah. I applied to this certification program and you had all of these people saying, “I have always wanted to be a teacher, it’s been my dream since I was an embryo.” And then they get to me and they ask, “Why are you in this program?” I respond, “Well, you know, I figured I’ve been doing some teaching, I’m pretty good at it. I figured lemme try this out.”

I laugh

The way I got into teaching– I had the skill set, but it wasn’t my calling. It was a struggle because I had so many talents in so many areas [in teaching]. I struggled with what I wanted to do versus what I can do really well.

So then that leads to your passion, which is:

The words. I started writing poetry after a health crisis where I had to be still– I would break out in full body hives. Eventually it was diagnosed by a naturopathic doctor as candidiasis, so candida overgrowth. And I was suing the school district, and I was suing them on my own.

You were suing the school district?

I was suing the school district for sexual harassment.

Wow.

I was using my one year of law school– it was really coming in handy because they tried to throw me off with some of these legal documents, but I understood it. That was the beauty– I finally understood why I was in law school for a year. It was great.

I love when life experience comes to your aid. All of a sudden you’re like, “That year was miserable, but I am so fucking glad I went to Tempee, Arizona.”

Yeah, I was suing the school district. And working with a naturopathic doctor, she was looking at when my symptoms started. Actually, I woke up in the night and wrote something down, and it was, “Soon you will know loss.” And she said, “What were you doing then?” And I said, “Oh, I was preparing something to give to a lawyer that wasn’t working with me.”

I was taking on way too much, and so my immune system was just like, “I’m out.” I had to change my diet to not have any carbs whatsoever– and that’s how I got introduced to the paleo diet. And so then my hives calmed down. But then, what I started to see was that in the presence of chaos or stress, then the hives would come back. When I asked the naturopathic doctor, I asked her why, and she said, “Well, it’s the fight or flight response, and so glucose releasing into your bloodstream is like eating candy. And so I couldn’t respond to things the way that I used to, or else I’d break out in full body hives.

How old were you at this point?

The hives happened right before I turned thirty. And just observing and being with everything, suddenly poetry started to come out. I guess, as long as I was being highly reactionary, my amygdala was always hijacked. But, without that constant stress, then the creative self started to come through. And even when I was going through the legal process, I remember a lawyer said, “Wow, you write really well. You should pursue that.”

And you’re just like, “Can we just deal with my case right now?”

She laughs

Yeah! And so I just started writing, and started writing. And then from my writing I got introduced to spoken word, and I started performing in some places. I remember the first performance I gave was at some cafe– I walked in, and saw this sign about open mics. I said, “I’d like to do that” and they said “Okay.” But I said, “You’ve never heard me, I could be horrible.” And he was like, “No, I have a sense that you’re good.”

The owner of the cafe– cause it was in a rough part of Oakland– drove me home afterwards because he wanted to be sure that I got home safely. And he said, “Wow, how many times have you do you get on the mic?” And I said, “Oh, that was my first time.”

You are so bold. Like, fear isn’t a factor for you. And I don’t know if that’s a conscious thing or you just go forward regardless of what you feel.

Yeah, I just go forward. I mean, sometimes fear shows up, but I just go forward. And he asked, “Why don’t you perform more?” And I responded, “No, I can’t. I’m shy.”

I laugh

Exactly! He had the same reaction. And he just looked at me and said, “No you’re not.” And I said, “Yes! I am! I’m shy!” And he said, “No you’re not.” And I’m like, “Yes! I am! I’m shy!” And he’s like, “No you’re not.” And I’m like, “Really? I’m not shy?”

That was the first time anybody ever questioned it, because whenever I would say it, people would say, “Oh, okay. You’re shy.” And I started to question it myself, and I thought, “Well, if I’m not shy, then what am I?” And I just kept processing that, and I got that I wasn’t shy– I was afraid.

Whenever I cried for some reason my lips would swell up. My lips were always swollen when I was growing up.

That’s so interesting physiologically. Your crying was how you were speaking, you didn’t have to put into words what was happening– and your body was preventing you from saying what you felt.

Yeah. Yeah, and so every time I cried, my lips would swell up. And, as a Jamaican, sticking out your lips is a threat? To people who are in charge, I guess?

Well, I guess it’s a nonverbal way to communicate, right?

A non-verbal threat! So then I’d get in trouble for pouting. So then I would get hit in the mouth– a lot. Because of how “rude” I was being for sticking out my lips. Oh, do not put me in a situation where I had to lie as a kid, because I was just gonna say what’s so. Just because that’s what’s so. So I’d get hit in the mouth for that. I wasn’t trying to be rude, it was just the truth. And so I was always hit in the mouth, so I just learned to not speak.

Instead of being afraid all of the time, I took on the label of shy. And people accepted that and welcomed my silence. And this [spoken word] was the first time I started to dismantle that.

That’s so interesting to me because writing is a silence activity. And it makes sense that you would search for solace in silence, where there was once pain.

Yeah, especially for me going to a silent retreat– it’s the intentional silence. That there is an intent behind it, one that I’m wanting to cultivate, rather than something being imposed on me.

While teaching, I gave a performance at a school, got off the stage, one of the parents met me as I was coming off of the stage, and he said, “What are you doing here?” And I said, “I don’t know.” And so I know that I had to leave teaching– it was so clear that I didn’t have to be there.

So you decided to pursue writing full time?

Every two years I was quitting my job. I would pursue writing, get scared, quit, go back to teaching. Teaching, there is always a route back to teaching. Especially if you’re a good teacher. Especially if you’ve left the door open, because I didn’t burn bridges.

That’s such an important– like, I’m 25. It’s hard for me to imagine that life is long. But it’s important to not set fire to everything because it can come back and bite you in the ass. I think that that’s such an important philosophy to maintain.

Wherever I left job, my goal was to leave them thirsting for more. I just always left an impression wherever I was. But I applied to the MFA program because I was tired of quitting jobs. I was applying for a job– I knew this was bad– but I was applying for this job, I’m on the phone for the phone interview, and that thought that came up was, “When can I quit?” And I knew that I had a problem then, I hadn’t even been offered the job, and I was already plotting when I would quit. I just really got tired of quitting.

And growing up, I used to play instruments, I used to do all kinds of creative things, and my mother always said my brother and I had to do these other things otherwise we would be homeless. She painted this picture of how we’d be on the street, we’d be asking for money, and she’d walk past us and fart on us.

Oh, jesus.

She would say, “Me just poop pon you and gwan”

There was a certain point where out of all of the jobs that I had quit, I was never homeless. I always knew how to hustle, I always knew how to build relationships, I always knew how to network, so that was her fear. And here it is, I’m carrying her fear. If the purpose of not being an artist is to have stability, and here I am, a teacher who constantly quits– I have no stability. So, why don’t I go and do what I want anyway since clearly stability is not a part of my life.

Right, right!

So, I applied to the MFA program, my husband and I were separated at the time. He’s in the military–

You have so many complex things going on.

Yeah, he was in Afghanistan. The military family life has its struggles. We were dealing with the impact of post-deployment, but a part of it was also culturally.

So he’s in the US military as an African?

They paid for his citizenship process. But you have to have a green card to go in. And people would ask why he was in the military. So his ethnic group is the Ewe, they’re a warrior people. And so that’s just always been a part of his identity. So if it wasn’t the US military, it would have been the Ghanaian military.

But also he’s a first son, his mother as a mother-in-law, she would have more say in a marriage, especially as a first son. And a first son, he has more responsibility of taking care of all of his relatives. And he was trying to do that. But one of the things I said to him was, “I know that your mother has not had the experience of being cherished, but the woman you married has also not had the experience of being cherished. And so, the Bible tells you that you need to cherish me, so you need to make up your mind.”

So, while those things were being figured out, we had to separate. And I just saw how much I’d poured myself into the marriage, and yet I wasn’t willing to do that for myself. So I just then applied to MFA programs. So when we came back together, I said, “… I got accepted into Columbia.”

Which is incredible.

Yeah! So, we’re just coming back together, and I’m like, “I’m thinking about moving back to New York? So, you wanna come?” And yeah, so we picked up and he was completely supportive. One, because he didn’t want me to put things on hold for him. Because then he knew that resentment would show up for me.

So then, and this feels like a silly question at this point, but do you identify as a writer?

I do?

That sounded like a question mark.

No, but more than a writer. I identify as a revolutionary. A revolutionary that writes.

I gasp

I have only been interviewing nonfiction writers, and I was left wondering if a poet or a fiction writer, it feels more immediate and easier to identify as a writer. As a nonfiction writer, it is easy to be like, “Well, I’m writing from my real life, so maybe I’m not as artistic. Something weird happened, that’s all.”

But even so, you said, “A revolutionary that writes.” And I think that making the verb “write” is such a powerful action. Identifying as a revolutionary is, honestly, more powerful? Rather than just identifying as a writer? So that’s so cool, I am so glad that that was your response.

Cause I look at the different things that people write about and there are certain things I wouldn’t write about them. The things that call to me, it’s always revolutionary things. And I just have this skill of writing.

In the retreat that I was in, the nun said–

The retreat you were telling me about next to the water cooler, the one you did over the weekend? The three day silent retreat?

Yes. It’s the second retreat I’ve done. The first one I did was a ten day silent retreat. With nothing else– no writing allowed.

How did you do that? You sat in silence for ten days?!

Yeah, we would go meditate and have breakfast, then go back to meditate, then have lunch, then go back to meditate, and then have dinner.

She laughs

So the way people go to a job is the way people went to the meditation hall. In silence. For ten days.

I don’t think I could do that.

It was amazing. During one of these, I was doing a thirty-day challenge of haikus during that time, so, haikus just pouring, pouring into me. But then also, I started to feel the vibrations coming off of my body. When you’re that quiet, your mind is that quiet, you can just sense things at a completely different level.

There is a stillness about you, and I am not a still person. My energy is like “BALALALALALA”

She laughs

So I think that the stillness that you embody is really unusual, especially in New York City. It makes sense to me that you could do that for ten days.

Yeah, yeah– Oh, and the nun, she was saying, “Let what calls to you be heard.” That’s what I write– what calls to me. And I take the time to hear it. And sometimes it means sitting in silence.

Over spring break I wanted to go on another ten day retreat, but they did not let me bring my homework. So I tried to create the silence myself– I was looking for a button, I told my husband I would be practicing silence. And he could not tolerate it, at all. He was just having a breakdown with my silence because so many people use silence as a weapon. And he couldn’t get out of the context of silence as healing rather than the “silent treatment”.

And so, I just acknowledged day two in it, “I see that you can’t do this. And if I want to generate a space of silence, I need to be among people who relate to silence in the same way. And I see that you don’t relate to it that way.” And I said, “I’m not making you wrong, I’m just saying that you don’t relate to silence in the healing way that it can be.” And he was just like, “Okay! Mhm! That’s good! You should find something like that– how was your day?”

We laugh

I just love the evolution of silence in your life. It was once something that brought violence upon you, and now it is something that generates and heals you. From what you’ve told me, I feel like you’ve always listened to yourself to a certain extent?

Yeah.

You’ve always gone along your own path, and that is so admirable. I don’t think that people realize that that’s an option. I think that it’s easy to say, “I could never do that.” But all it takes is doing it. What I’ve admired of what you told me is that even if you felt fear, you just fuggin’ do it.

I do a lot of thirty day challenges because I don’t like to commit to things. And so, um, the thirty day challenges removes the badness of not committing to things– I just do it for thirty days. And so I did a thirty day “No Complaint” challenge, where I couldn’t complain for thirty days– I failed.

I laugh

But I kept getting back into it! One of the classes I went into, the heater was on, it was way too hot, everyone was complaining about it. So I just got up and I went to the Security Guard, and I told him, “Something’s wrong with the thermostat in this room, can you call someone to please handle it?” And I went back into the class and the professor said, “That was great!” After the thirty day challenge, I noticed where I complain. And if I’m going to complain on something, then I need to actually take an action. So that’s what I did!

But the going forward part of things just comes from me just acknowledging that if there’s an action I don’t take, I know what I’m going to do as a result– I am going to complain about it, I’m going to be bitter about it, I’m going to blame someone about it. So if I want to avoid all of that in my future, then I need to take the action.

There’s a TEDx coming up at Columbia next month, and I’m going to be a part of it. But, I was afraid to apply, and I thought, if you don’t apply– fast forward to April, what’s going to happen? I’m going to see these other students that are a part of it, I’m going to see these other people that are a part of it, I’m gonna watch videos, and I’m going to burn on the inside. And I’m going to watch hating TEDx or TEDs ever again– or, I could just apply. And if I get rejected, it is because they rejected me, not because I rejected myself. So I saw myself hating TED for the rest of my life if I just didn’t apply. So I just applied.

I feel like so much of that idea of life is stability, and what I’ve come to find more and more is that life is just all instability? And I think that something that is very admirable about you is that you’ve kind of just embraced the instability, that’s just how it goes.

Yeah. Yeah! And that’s even what my writing is about. Staring at suffering, like you have no manners. Just staring, and writing it.

This… interview is brilliant. I am so psyched.

She laughs

Thank you!

This project just spurred out of the fact that so many women around me don’t identify as writers, even though we are all at a graduate program for writer. And even me– I had a really hard time identifying as a writer. And obviously, the degree doesn’t make the writer, but I’m here for a reason. And I write.

Yeah, I definitely had those moments. I had another health crisis last spring, and I was having those moments right before the health crisis. I think that’s one of the reasons I get my mind right, the mind-body connection seems to be so strong with me that if my mind isn’t right, it just shows up in my body.

Yeah! What you were saying about the fear creating hives, like if I’m angry and I don’t express it, I get a migraine. So that totally resonates with me– it is all fuckin’ connected.

Yeah, so yeah– I was in that space of, “I’m not a writer, I’m not a writer.” And what I learned– I was in a nonfiction class, and I’m not nonfiction, I’m poetry. And we had to write an autobiography, and my life story is full of abuse and pain. And, I’m writing my life story, but I couldn’t go back and revise it. I couldn’t look at it. I could only vomit it out and put it out. And I’ve done so much work around myself, but I haven’t committed it to paper and then had it workshopped–  you’re poking into my wounds.

Welcome to nonfiction workshop.

And then to look at the other stories, where their lives were beautiful– beautiful in comparison. No one had such a challenging story like the one I had. And I just felt, “I don’t know how to write– I just couldn’t look at it.”

That resonates with me a lot.

And then I got– it’s not that I don’t know how to write, I just don’t know how to write trauma. And trauma is its own skillset. And this program doesn’t provide structure around writing trauma. And I went to the professor and I said, “I figured it out! I don’t know how to write trauma, can you help me with that?” And he was just responded, “… how about I give you a different writing assignment.” But I said, “But, no! I’ve bumped up against this, let me get my money’s worth! Show me!” And he said, “Maybe you can write about it from this perspective.”  “Still traumatic!” And he said, “Maybe you could write about these happy memories.” And I said, “Naw! All traumatic!” I can tell you that no matter what angle I go from, there is trauma everywhere. So, I need to learn the skill set– unless I’m never going to write about my life.

But then my body was just like, “I’m out!” And that was the end of that class– or the end of the semester, cause I just couldn’t function anymore.

So yeah! Writing trauma, there’s so much silence around that.

Yeah.

And we can handle it artfully, we can handle it in a healing way. There was a quote that I pulled from one of the books this weekend, it was, “How To Fight”, by Thich Nhat Hanh. And this part of the book was titled, “Don’t Run Away”, and it said, “To try to run away from suffering is not wise, to stay with it, to look deeply into it, and to make good use of it is what we should do. It is by looking deeply into the nature of suffering that we discover the path of transformation and healing. Without suffering there is no happiness and no path to happiness. We can even speak of the goodness of suffering because suffering helps us to learn and grow.”

So that’s why I write. Just stare at it. Don’t run away. It goes back to “Why’d you leave before?” To run away from something, and now it’s running towards something. Which I guess is what people would call courage.

And I think of that when I think of my husband and military things. If a blast happens, everyone will run away from it– and the way they’re trained is to run towards it. That’s how I see myself as a writer. To run towards what people run away from.

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