A Writing Exercise: On and Partially Out of Doom

Yesterday morning, a friend led three other friends and me through a writing exercise during our second annual Seminary Sisters’ gathering. We’d all been together for over a day by that point. Updates had been shared, gaps filled, comically bad food eaten, and our hearts and minds swirled as we sat in a circle around a dining room table in a cute airbnb in Poughkeepsie, NY. This was a location halfway between where two of our sisters live, but an exceptional heatwave made it feel like it was halfway to the sun.

The exercise, she taught us, begins with the reading of a poem. In this case, our sister read only part of a poem—quite by accident, it turns out, but a perfectly useful accident nonetheless. Not realizing which poem it was at the time, we discovered later that she read the first four stanzas of the poem Maya Angelou wrote for President Obama’s Inauguration on January 20, 2009. But the first four stanzas, a warning of sorts, stood on their own even while leaving an incomplete Gestalt that opened our imaginations and projections (much like the ending of The Gospel of Mark). We then paused in reflection on the poem for a few moments and then she read it again. Then we wrote for 10 (instead of the standard 20) minutes, stopped, gave the section a title, wrote down the emotions we felt while writing that section, noted what was left unsaid, began writing again for another 10 minutes, and finished that section as before.

The following rather (be warned) graphic piece is the result of what came to me and what I shared with my Sisters. It has been edited with no more than 20 key strokes.

[TITLE] This Abyss

[10 MINUTES of WRITING] I have within me a growing sense of doom. No, not a sense, but a knowing, a knowing to be denied, to pretend isn’t there as all good White ladies pretend that the man is not standing behind her with a sledge hammer, waiting patiently for her to say something inane, giving him permission—in his twisted, self-serving, self-loathing way—to bash her head in, in beautiful fashion. One thinks of that horrid scene in that movie about Al Capone with De Niro and Cosner… That horrid scene when… when that too horrid to utter thing happens.

I have a gnawing doom in my gut. Once it was a doom shrouded in existential angst, a friend of meaninglessness that promised freedom and liberty and nonchalance but gave me panic and vertigo and left me to rot on unknown territories of a cosmic map.

The “promise,” and it must be said this way, pissed me off. And that piss propelled me into journey, a journey out of the abyss of meaninglessness.

Oh, sweet Jesus, you met me there. And we traveled on a sweet ride for a time.

Of course I always knew the journey would not always be sweet with you. But I must admit I expected demons, and broken arms, and battle. Not this blasted doom again, a doom that rots in my gut.

“It is different this time, this way,” we whisper to each other in unison. But you, my prince, know the way, and I do not. ALL that I have is my trust in you. I have no sweet comfort, no clear presence of your Spirit to sooth and encourage my feet.

No, now all I know [FINISH THE SENTENCE YOU ARE ON AND STOP] is the meteor heading for our world.

[GIVE THIS SECTION A TITLE] (See above)

[EMOTIONS FELT WHILE WRITING] Freedom, hope, despair, fear, anger, despair.

[WHAT WAS LEFT UNSAID] The way out

Eschatological hope.

….

[TITLE] The Coming Unknown

[CONTINUE WRITING FOR 10 MINUTES] No, now all I know is the meteor heading for our world. And I feel a consuming need to chuckle at it—in proper White woman fashion, and shake my head at the silliness of thinking your Final Consummation might occur in our lifetimes. Is not that the folly of every generation? Will it not be the folly of my dear niece and nephew (for whom I weep)? Can, please, it be their folly, too?

Nervous laughter. Over suburban fare. And, truth be told again, the friends I keep, though they tend toward the White, do not chuckle pleasantly but with an edge, an edge we do not hide. The laugher we release rings of feigned desire to use the edge on our wrists because we just cannot grasp how utterly insane our siblings in you are, those ones who are sending propulsion jets to attach to that meteor hurling straight for us.

Perhaps in secret, though, we wish that that meteor will make it to us soon. We want and crave the peace that you promise on the other side of it. The fullness of time. The great reward. Pearly gates and no pain. We wish it for our children and for our brothers’ children—[FINISH SENTENCE AND STOP]

—but maybe not quite yet.

[TITLE] (See above)

[EMOTIONS] Disconnection, sadness, mild insecurity, rest

[LEFT UNSAID] Editing, fleshing out of the hope,

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