FIELD NOTES :: CAITS MEISSNER’S TRANSCRIBING THE JOURNEY :: PT 4 :: SAFE SPACES & ART : WHY I'M MAKING ROOM FOR WOMEN
Safe Spaces & Art: Why I’m Making Room For Women
“Safe Spaces & Art” marks the fourth weekly episode of Poet / Artist / Educator Caits Meissner‘s “TRANSCRIBING THE JOURNEY,” our newest FIELD NOTES series-within-a-series. Bald and brave, these process notes offer not only a remarkable look inside the creative process but also include selections from #caitsprompts, her ongoing social media catalyst / feed. (available on twitter)
Stepping out with this new course I’ve been asked a lot of questions about the choice to offer a workshop to women, specifically, and why this iteration of facilitating? Transcribing the Journey seemed like the appropriate place to explore the why’s relating to teaching writing- specifically with a lens on women becoming “bold” (or full, whole, confident) through exercises designed to uplift, heal and transform. Picture this, my parents sometimes have to blink twice seeing the work I’m embarking on- my face smiling on the internet, my voice projecting off a stage. As a child I was lonely, depressed, disconnected- and shy. I preferred burrowing in my bedroom and creating for hours on end, where it was a safe world I had created to get lost in. This is where my understanding began- of the power of creative spirit and art-making as a proverbial cocoon from which to emerge with a sky-wide wing span.
What I know: to become an evolved human being, there needs to be a strong will towards engaging in self-exploration and reflection. However, getting stuck in a reflective space for too long can cause inertia, therefore, this heavy dose of self-examination must be balanced with action, risk taking and movement. People grow into various roles, and courage can look vastly different on the body of one person verses another- and the goal is never to shape someone into a cookie cutter version of brave and fearless, but to offer tools that help one carve their own definition. It’s a tall task, this act of being human- for all of us, and depending on the season, most of us fluctuate from being fairly self aware to self absorbed to boarding on self destructive. Life is unpredictable for each and every one of us.
Despite the entire human condition being in need of constant salve, over the years I have noticed a painful thread in both my students and my peers: women are finding it difficult to claim their power and remain stuck in old stories of hurt, inadequacy and fear. Often, if not always, it is women who approach me with questions of where my confidence has arrived from. At first I was shocked- huh? I am not unshakably confident, I struggle with my own fears and anxieties and short comings and exhaustion. But I began to understand where the notion of my “courage” came from- I am not afraid to talk about any of these things, process them, and push on through. Understanding the perspective, I am now unsurprised at this line of inquisition, given our world’s loud message, even in our modern society about a woman’s value being in her silence and self-devaluing serving. From America, where the media feeds our views of the insecure and subservient woman, to nations across the world where woman are held in place through violent tactics and humiliation, there has been little space to claim our unique power. For any followers of my public explorations, it is no secret that my own personal power arrives from striving for unabashed vulnerability and moving past feelings of fear to step into truth. But how? How have I managed this? How can you?
Many of the healing programs I have encountered exist in a metaphysical realm. While I believe these programs have many success stories, I am not one of them. Cord cutting techniques have never rid me of a lingering ex-lover still paining my heart and even meditation alone has failed to help in processing witnessing abuse and death. I never found my guru and couldn’t get down with the overly commercialized teachings of rockstar spiritualists. I need something more concrete, more artful, more engaging and arousing to my heart.
What has helped, tremendously and in life shifting ways, is writing.
Time and time again, writing has been my safe haven, my teacher, my companion, my mirror and my platform. The act of going into all the dark corners and pulling open the curtains, confronting memories buried and challenging myself in the pursuit of personal truth has brought radical self transformation. The concreteness of ink on a page has always appealed to me- I can visually trace the journey, I can hold the notebook in my hands, I can speak the words into the air, and into the heart of a listener. Beyond the self, I’ve witnessed the simple power of a pen and a private notebook for young women I’ve taught- in the pages of a free write, a teen revealed a rape she had never admitted to (which led to telling her mom, which led to a profound journey of healing.) In poems another young woman explored the disease that caused excessive body hair to grow and her sense of shame slowly lifted. It didn’t really matter that neither of these young women previously identified as a writer. It was a tool, a process that disrupted their perceptions of the world and of self, and led to an incredible blossoming.
I am not the first nor the last person to recognize the healing powers of transcribing memory and emotion, certainly, this is an ancient practice. There is a long lineage to this work, and through many years of teaching, practicing and being mentored, I have honed in on what has worked best for my own development. And now, I want to share it widely with women, to confront our fears together, and to emerge as our most light-filled, bold and passionate selves.
Here are some prompts to get you started:
Previously in this series:
Digging Deep, Facing Self. You want in on this transformative experience- and yes, you can do it with a full time job, and yes, it’s all based ONLINE. Get bold. Join me. Learn more about this awesome program & register at www.caitsmeissner.com/course
Transcribing the Journey is a series of journal entries where I reflect on the journey of writing- my trials, tribulations, growth and thought processes- to share in communion with you, dear writer! Follow along here, or on my website, and feel free to share out!
Winner of the OneWorld Poetry Contest, Caits Meissner attended the 2008 Pan-African Literary Forum in Ghana, studying under Yusef Komunyakaa. She has been published in various journals and books, including Saul Williams’ recent anthology, CHORUS. Her poetry/music album was released to online acclaim through sites such as Okayplayer. The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You, Caits’ collaborative poetry book with poet Tishon, arrived January 2012 on the Well&Often imprint, a press where she also serves as Founding/Education Editor. She has performed at venues such as Joe’s Pub, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Highline Ballroom, NYU, Columbia University, The Kitchen and the Blue Note Jazz Cafe.