Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Creative Prompt: On the laundry line...

The metaphor I always heard was one of:  "Don't air your dirty laundry."  OR, "She's got a lot of dirty laundry."  OR, "We don't air our dirty laundry in public."  My reactions to those laundry metaphors, since I was a child, as far back as I can remember, have always been the following:

  • Um, why don't we?
  • Um, who cares what we air or not?
  • Who says it's dirty?
  • What makes thus-and-such dirty anyway?
  • Is there ever anyone who is so magical that they never have dirty laundry?
  • Don't we wear clothes and use cloth things so that they get dirty? Then we wash them, air them, and re-use them?

I just never have understood the guilt and shame people have tried to infuse into dirty laundry.  I especially didn't get it when it came to death and grief.  Specifically in my case, I didn't get why anyone would take issue with airing the laundry around child death, stillbirth, or whatever the details were with the deaths of my kids or my goddaughter's death.  I mean, 1) don't people want to know about how they might prevent the same kinds of child deaths in their lives; 2) wouldn't there be like a million other people who had experienced these kinds of things, too, who might want to connect in community; and 3) what the hell is there to hide about death or grief when it is born of the HUGE love we feel for our kids?

Needless to say, when others might hit me with that kind of "dirty laundry" stuff in the attempt to hush me up, I just side-stepped them and went on about hanging my laundry to dry wherever the heck I wanted to hang it.  To me, it wasn't dirty anymore.  It was wrung out with emotions, twisted and soaked with thought and love, and now it just needed some fresh air, hanging on the line, outside in nature to breathe breathe breathe.  And good on any neighbor who'd found their way that far on their own, too, because *d*mn and blast*, it is HARD to find your way out of bed to do anything after your kids die!

So the drawing shared here today was, somewhat, just a sketch to capture a scene I came across at a Buddhist monastery in California one day this past Spring.  But it was also a creative prompt for me.  Something about leaving all the squares of laundry, hanging there in the drawing with no pattern on them, well... I don't know just gave me the idea that we have the agency to not have it be "dirty" laundry anymore.  We can draw any art or words or shapes or colors or whatever we want on these blank laundry squares.  We can have whatever we want aired out to be aired out without judgment.  Just for curiosity sake.  Just for the sake of sharing in community.  Just for the sake of being out in the world and being seen exactly as we (and things) are.

It's been a difficult week for me personally.  Many personal, political, justice, pop culture, environmental losses and shifts have happened.  I've watched as race and class have dictated what was supposed to be justice.  I've witnesses as more environmental damage is done in the name of big business and prosperity.  I've been confounded at people dismissing the grief kid (and adult) viewers have felt at the sudden death of a talented actor, lost too soon to the ravages of addiction and drugs.  And either people dismiss the grief.  Things like, "Get over it. It's just tv."  (Well, not really, because a *MAN*, a *PERSON*, actually died, but okay??)  Or they don't even name it as grief or trauma.  They say it is just a court case.  They say, "Well, that's my opinion," or "You are wrong because it has nothing to do with race."  They say it is just politics.  It is just big business.  It is just the way the adult world is.  Whatever.

Look around.  Wake up.  There is grief playing out on a global scale.  We can choose to see the airing laundry or dismiss it.  But whether we choose to see or dismiss, it is there.  You can close your eyes to it.  You can eschew it as dirty or childish or whatever other way you want to dismiss it.  But it is there.

So *maybe* just maybe it would be -- if nothing else -- slightly more helpful to see what is airing and TALK about things.  Let the grief that is rising be fuel for change, for the everyday things we can affect, for the agency we do have.  Talk to the people in your life about addiction.  What does it mean to be sober and creative?  What does it mean to have the demons of addiction take so much from us?  Not just the actor we lost to drugs, but the addiction of money and power that ravages our political, justice, and environmental systems!  What does it mean and how does it feel to have so much global visibility now that we can SEE environmental impacts world wide?  How do we stay creative along side the feelings of grief or the tears that come?  How do we tend and take gentle care?  What small steps can we take as active agents in our own lives to make a difference?

It might be as simple as hanging your wet laundry out to dry on the line outside instead of running the electric dryer today.


I know.  That seems too simplistic in the face of *the WORLD*...but it is an act we have in our power.  What other little acts of agency do we have?  It starts with the step under your foot, right now.

It won't restore all the damage done.  It won't bring a talented young man back to the living.  But it says we mourn and SEE what has happened -- AND we are taking action in memory of, in honor of...

It is as simple as the planting of a maple tree done by the Jumonville community in memory and honor of my goddaughter Erin who left us a year ago now.  My heart to everyone there who acted.  My heart to everyone there who set up a way for us to participate from a distance.

So that's your creative prompt for the day:  Shift the paradigm of "dirty" laundry to something of agency and action.  Tend yourself gently so that taking whatever small steps you can, will be made that much easier to take!



  1. Kara, I so needed to read this...I attended a meet up writing group earlier this evening. I am wide awake pondering which of my poems will be "safe" enough to share if I choose to next week. All of a sudden they all felt too raw and exposing to me. They are my version of "dirty laundry" I suppose, since I don't censor the emotions that prompt the words that clamor for expression when I compose. I don't want to "sterilize" my writing to feel safe or fit in. Thank you thank you thank you....Linda

  2. Sending lots of supportive vibes your way, Linda! I recall so many instances where I'd found my voice in a piece, but hesitated to share it on the blog or in writing group as it didn't feel safe to do so. Especially in academic/critique based groups, I often censored myself. But the cooooool thing about creativity is that it affords us a chance to shift...back in the day, I shifted my criteria for writing groups and sought out more "poetry therapy" type setting where everyone was processing in a more raw way than I'd experienced in the ice-cooled-academic spaces.

    Your note has me wondering if this is a new group for you? Are you still finding your edges in this group? Have you had previous group experiences that proved to not be "safe" to share -- so that might be reflecting here, even if this present group isn't the same way? If you think of your pieces as pretty cloth, or lovely laundry, instead of dirty laundry, does that shift anything in how they feel for sharing?

    So glad something in my post here resonated for you...sending gooooood juju and all!!

    1. I am fortunate that I have 3 very close and trustworthy sister/friends that I can share my raw work with; and yes this group is a new experience for me. I would prefer a more "poetry therapy" group and I know I will find my tribe eventually.
      The Pluto, Neptune, Chiron dance that is happening astrologically is shaking up my world in big ways and small and my dreams are telling me in very vivid terms that it is time to come out of "hiding" and "stop playing small". I feel as if I am in "spiritual labor". Attempting to ride the waves of energy as they crest and fall without adding to the pain.
      Thanks for you kind and thoughtful reply. And bless you for your honest and tender sharing of your journey. Namaste, Linda

  3. Thank you Kara for the challenge to live bravely and authentically, to be not afraid to share our stories, and to seek meaningful and caring connections. I had been thinking of you just yesterday and had planned on reaching out to connect and hear how things are going with you...the day slipped away. I was all smiles when I received your eNews this morning. I had felt your presence before it had arrived. Let's catch up sometime soon and explore ways that our creativity can mingle and play. {soul hugs} k

  4. Kathryn!!! Omgosh, BIGGGGEST hugs to you! I was thinking about you, too...something of yours popped up on my FB stream yesterday, and I started daydreaming about doing a new exchange of recorded calls with you or something. Part of my vision for this year (or, well, in whatever time it unfolds!) is to re-design my site(s), and get my workshops updated and stuff. I have three lovely interviews from Courtney, Jamie, and you, I think... anyway, was dreaming how fun it would be to go back and re-listen to those and then get on the interwebs with you and do a check-in/update/new recording as a way of sharing all that's unfolded, etc... :)))) So, yes, yes, goodness, we are on each others' wave lengths!! <3

  5. The family I grew up in was too repressed to consider having dirty laundry much less airing it.
    My dad's line was, "don't wear your feelings on your sleeve", which might make for another great writing/sketching prompt. What's this obsession with clothing, dirty or otherwise? Sleeves seems like an excellent place to wear one's feelings, as they can also be used for mopping up the tears, not to mention snot.

  6. Awwww, Janie Starr, I looooooooooooooooove you so BIG! Yes, darnit, sleeves are great for mopping up the tears and snot :) xoxoxooxoxoxoxooxoxo


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