Finding Inspiration In Unlikely Places…

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If I’m being completely honest and transparent, which I believe is a very important element of our thesis work, I must say I’ve hit a writing wall, or an emotional wall this week. I had to take a step back from my work. Why you ask? Hmm? Good question! I’m not sure I have the answer. I just know every time I put my fingers to the keyboard keys, it was crickets. I just couldn’t type. It was as if some imaginary being was pulling my hands back, preventing me from typing, from speaking, it almost felt like it was keeping me from even, breathing. Silence, deafening silence is all I heard. I tried to change my settings and scenery by heading off to my local Starbucks and B&N. It helped in that I was able to create a cover for my memoir, I inserted the table of contents, I also put a dedication in my memoir as well as a special quote that one can read before starting my story. I must say seeing The Seashell start to look like a actual book, rather than just some stark, white, google doc pages, gave me the chills. The good kind! It started to, for the very first time in over a year, started to look like a actual book, a publishable book. I don’t talk about it often, maybe because my negative inner dialogue stops me: “Nives, this is great work, but not good enough to ever get published.” This negative, self defeating sentiment seems to be stuck on repeat in my mind. But the truth is, what I don’t speak into existence, but speaks to my heart almost daily, is the fact that I dream and ache of the day my memoir gets published. I just pray as our journey together comes to an end soon, that I start to believe in my own work, and start to explore the possibility that my memoir, my story, is in fact good enough, that I’m good enough as is. If I’ve learned anything throughout my graduate school voyage, it’s that I need to learn how to have, even if it’s just a little bit, I need to learn to have a little more FAITH!

So you’re probably wondering what the above image is and why it’s in my blog post. Let me explain. This past weekend after finding myself in a writing rut, I needed an escape. Something to shake up all my senses. So I ventured off to NYC with a friend and went to of all places: The Museum of Sex! Ha! (My poor Catholic school nuns are cringing I know!) You’re probably wondering what’s wrong with me!? But it was exactly what I needed, without even realizing how much I needed it. I had heard about this museum over the years, and I was always curious. Sure it had it’s raunchy and over the top elements just as I had suspected. But it also had some really thought provoking and provocative exhibits, that made me appreciate the evolution and the deeper meaning of what sex, and sexuality is really all about. I left the museum feeling more empowered as a woman. I also felt grateful that I lived in a country that allows us all to openly explore and learn about our sexuality in such an open and over the top forum. Again, you’re probably wondering what the heck this has to do with my memoir or thesis, so here goes. One of the featured exhibits was a ode to Betty Dodson who recently passed at the age of 91 in 2020. She was an American sex educator, artist, and a pioneer in the pro sex feminist movement of the late 60’s. I was surrounded by all her colorful and explicit artwork, some of which I must admit made me blush. And as I explored further with one eye closed, I came upon her own very own memoirs!

I was excited to see that this dynamic woman had in fact written not one, but two memoirs. Betty Dodson’s memoir: From Monogamous Wife to Sexual Explorer to Feminist Revolutionary and My Romantic Love Wars: A Sexual Memoir is the story of one woman’s struggle to liberate female sexuality while enjoying her own. In the 70s, as the feminist movement evolved, focusing on various platform issues including equal pay and voter registration, Betty latched on to sexual liberation as a symbol for self empowerment. She quickly became the leader of the sex-positive feminist movement. And the rest is history. This was inspiring work! Although my thesis isn’t sex related, there is a chapter about how I lost my virginity, fell deeply in love and lost my way in life due to the intoxicating and toxic first love I experienced as a teenager and young adult. So I guess in many ways, sex does play a crucial role in my story, and the direction my life ultimately went in. I thank feminists leaders and icons like Betty for their bravery and the courage to speak out about women’s issues. Especially delicate ones such as sexuality, pleasure and sex. If it wasn’t for women like Betty, my own story may have never been told. Xo.

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Post-Spring Break Blues and Editing my Passion Project

Google Images, 12 April 2021

Since my return from Spring Break, I have been experiencing some spring blues. Although it is officially Spring, it has been chilly and rainy outside. The weather to an extent impacts my mental health; on sunnier days, I tend to feel happier, while on dark, gloomy days, I feel tired and sad. I am tired on my quarantine routine. To add to my anxiety, we are returning back to school on April 19 with a full-day schedule with a 20-minute lunch break. We have been following a Hybrid Schedule with a 1-hour break and with an early dismissal on Wednesdays for deep cleaning. For some reason, we do not need deep cleaning on Wednesdays anymore? Also, during this period, I am trying to finalize third-marking grades and to file my 2020-2021 taxes. This past week I have been busy tending to mundane tasks, so I was only able to edit my passion project. I look forward to listening to Ryan’s project.

Closing Out the Semester

Now that the damage has been done and my presentation is over, I have only another handful of weeks to finalize my thesis. From last week to this, I continued my readings and wrote a short abstract for my thesis. I’ll have to spend the remaining weeks doing the actual writing of my research document, although it’s going to end up being largely descriptive but will of course contain the scientific and other research I’ve done and will likely continue doing at least until next week when I’d like to have my lit review done (this is my particular goal for next week). I’m looking forward to hearing Ryan speak tonight as I think his has been a thesis I’ve been particularly interested in throughout the past two semesters.

Last week I forgot to read something from Bachelard I felt was one of the most impactful quotes I’ve come across. It just looks into some contextualizing of unreality for Bachelard etc. etc., but it speaks to how values come from an unknown nothingness (here the house, but the point stands I think of the mind as well). He speaks of what power memory has as something that props up the facts of the past as, if those memories should be “effaced,” then facts become much more spectral. The point is that it blurs the lines between our history and what Bachelard calls our “indefinite pre-history.” For me, this means that the “space between words” so to speak, or the space between being enlivened by words threatens to make unreal the life I’ve built for myself through literature. It makes it difficult to write when the experiences I’ve had become harder to make truly mine, save for when the reality of my past is given the “new” life of reading from others. Anyway here’s the quote, and understand that this comes with some paragraphs or even pages of context, but I think it’s an incredible quote:

“But it would seem that this element of unreality in the dreams of memory affects the dreamer when he is faced with the most concrete things, as with the stone house to which he returns at night, his thoughts on mundane things. William Goyen understands this unreality of reality (loc. cit., p 56): ‘So this is why when often as you came home to it, down the road in a mist of rain, it seemed as if the house were founded on the most fragile web of breath and you had blown it. Then you thought it might not exist at all as built by carpenter’s hands, nor had ever; and that it was only an idea of breath breathed out by you who with that same breath that had blown it, could blow it all away.'”

Bachelard

We have to accept what Bachelard and Gombrowicz call the unreal, as it happens in the space between; between anything. Dream, humor, these things matter for even serious things, or the serious pursuit of things. It’s hard for me to keep that in mind sometimes and not feel lost in the spaces between or in the time “before.” See you in class later.

Thesis Update 4/13

I have been making some really good progress on my story and am excited to be reaching the end.  I am finished with most of it, and I look forward to keeping my progress going in the right direction.  I said last week that next friday is when I hope to be done with the work completely, and I still feel as though that is a viable option.  Moving forward, something I hope Dr. Zamora can touch upon this week is what it is we need to be submitting with our work.  Proposal?  Annotated Bibliography?  As well as what date she is aiming for as far as final submissions go.  Those are all the thoughts that I have this week.  See everyone in class!