Women’s Issues

BodyLove

2a478a1232c9ccf658be5f0df4fe84bc1

This is highly personal and all words are meant with love.

My mother was a critic of my body from a very young age. When I was a pre-teen, she bought me a bikini I insisted on getting for a trip to Biloxi.  It was a string bikini and designed for young girls, but my mother thought it revealed too much of my undeveloped chest, so she sewed the front two triangles together so that it was one piece that ended at my neck. She also gave me pamphlets printed in the 1950s (this was in the late 1970s) about modesty, likely distributed to her through her church.

Later, when I was a teenager, I took some of my allowance and bought a piece of tasteful lingerie at a high end department store. I wore it once to sleep in and the next day when I came home from school I found it cut in rags.

Moving forward to my early adulthood, when I started gaining weight, the criticism was more pointed at my belly and my arms. Mom always reminded me to pull my shirt down to cover my large stomach. If I wore a top that had capped sleeves or no sleeves she would make her disapproval clear.

I clearly recall one day that really hurt me when she made comments that my arms looked like over-stuffed sausages, when I was wearing a new t-shirt I loved. Yes, she actually said that. She herself would never wear a sleeveless top because she was self-conscious about her upper arms. The loose skin and fat made her uncomfortable. It is only now, after her death, that I realize she was projecting onto me her own body-issues. Maybe, she thought shaming me would make me change my dietary habits and sedentary lifestyle. It didn’t, but since her death, I made the commitment to myself to focus on my health and wellness, thank God.

When I decided to take up swimming for exercise, I worried how I was going to be able to go in public with my perceived flaws. I froze up trying on bathing suits, not worried about my thighs, hips, stomach, but about my upper arms.  That negative comment, spoken in some twisted way of trying to motivate me, haunted me. I considered wearing a t-shirt over my bathing suit, but because I was going to be swimming for exercise, I didn’t want to be encumbered by clothing over a suit.

I found a great athletic swimsuit that I love and a pair of light gym shorts that match well with the suit (for my own personal comfort). I mentally prepared myself to be in public in my swim suit. I wanted to swim with the purpose of gaining strength and overall toning and to strengthen my heart.  The first time wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and the joy of being in a pool again soothed away all of my anxiety.

It has now been a couple of months that I have been swimming. This spring I have also done something that I had never done in my adult life: wear sleeveless tops in public. I have tank tops, camis, and sleeveless dresses that I wear regularly now and it fills me with pride. It’s enthralling to me. One day it will be less so; it will be ordinary. For now it is liberation and another step into my own self-actualization.

My hurt was so deep, and my grief over the loss of my mother has been too. Not a day goes by without me thinking of my loving and wonderful mother, who wasn’t perfect but very near so. I am in a strange way free from her *well-meaning* but antagonizing body-criticisms that shamed me for so long. I don’t say this with any spite. Just a bit of sadness because we could have had a constructive conversation about this before her death.

I believe in the spirit world, and I mean no harm in relating this story. I hope my mother sees how empowering it is for me to dress the way I want to and be confident in my body. I hope my mother sees that this is not an escape from her rules for me, but a healthy release from something that caused me great pain and unnecessary shame for so long.

My arms are flappy. My arms are fat. But I have more muscle mass than I ever had in my whole adult life. My journey is not just about losing fat to look good. I look beautiful now. My heart is in this game for life, for health and wellness: mind, body and spirit.

ONE

one-life

I have this one life. I am addressing areas that have been neglected and treating myself with love and care, whereas in the past I harmed myself. I have no apologies for reclaiming my energies to prevent myself from living in a wheelchair, suffering from joint disintegration, or dying from a heart attack. Of course, we don’t know how we will go, but I am revolutionizing my mind and body to squeeze every bit of life out of life.

I haven’t felt inclined to write poetry of late. That is okay with me. I feel that I will come to it when I am ready. What inspires me is other writers, other artists of many forms. I have a photo by Annie Pluto on my computer’s desktop that I am allowing to consciously and subconsciously resonate with me. I hope to write an ekphrastic poem inspired by it.

I am being very selective about what I will do in my Writing Life. I have set boundaries; and will respect my own authority to make decisions in regards to how I will proceed. Otherwise, I firmly believe, the work will not be authentic or any good, the goals for which I have always strived.

I have had to let go of things that at one time meant so much to me. My mother’s death changed me in ways that I view as positive, which I believe she would have wanted for me. My hope for the New Year is that I can continue the progress I started in late 2014, to better myself, in a holistic way.

My determination is strong. My hope is rising. My will is palpable; and I have the love and support of those dearest to me, thank God.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Clare L. Martin

Watching the Wheels

 

I forgot who I was. I knew the age spot on my left cheek. I knew the sagging breasts and the overlapping belly. I knew my feet; my unusually small toes. I knew my eyes and what they had seen. I knew my lips, now shaded in regal purple. I knew my place in the bed next to the dog, and further away, my husband. I knew him; his wants and needs. I knew the losses: friendships, a friend forever, my father, son and now, almost seven months ago, my mother. I knew something of my values, but not as clearly: my own value. I had forgotten the tools of my fingers; except to inconsistently pleasure myself, wash my face, shave the stubble here and there, or grip a steering wheel. I knew my daughter; but already this knowing is an ocean away. I knew the reason I withdrew from an outside life that filled others more than myself. I knew the shame of saying one thing and doing another. But I had forgotten myself.

I know that in the past six months I put words on paper. I know that as soon as those words were written I forgot them. I forgot the thrill too, and felt only dislocation.  I forgot the feel of words in my mouth, as though my tongue had been numbed for surgery. I forgot the clicking taps on a keyboard except for inane mumblings; wretched gloats and ambiguous streams of babble. But back to dislocation: my writing setting has been unsettled. There are two sofas in this room. One does not belong here. Things are unplugged that should be plugged in. There are china cups wrapped in newspaper in boxes that haven’t been unpacked. One curtain hangs and another needs to be hung up. Where is my grounding? Files and files and no skeleton for them. Unopened mail. Books unread. I became dislocated in the aftermath of death. I do remember the tenderest parts of me and the kisses they received.

Before I progress, I need to familiarize myself with myself. Yesterday, I wanted to disappear. I wanted to drive on a road I’d never traveled and tell no one if I was going north, south, east or west. Instead I went to a bakery and bought my favorite dessert. My husband ate half and my daughter the other.  The yearning I have is to be left alone. JUST LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE.  That has been my mantra, but I do want to engage. Those closest to me understand. I have enough time. I just need awareness of the ever-presence of the opportunity of solitude and the will to delineate myself into its holy grasp.

Drained. I have been drained. Lately, I have related an adage that came to me: “If your own kitchen is on fire and your neighbor’s house is burning, put out the fire in your kitchen and then bring water to your neighbor.”  This is how I must live my life, for now, until the fire is put out, until the long task list is accomplished. I do not feel guilt for saying no. I do not feel remorse for expressing wrath when only wrath, justified, would accomplish the necessary. I had forgotten wrath. Wrath can be useful. I accept my own blamelessness.

God help those who elicit my wrath. It is life-stopping in a metaphorical way; and profoundly affecting. Good, good, good. Now you know. Now you will pay attention and show me respect. Wrath: a wolf in defense and defiance for survival. It is necessary for the continuation of my living with no ill intent at all.

I talked to a friend today. It was nice. She offered refuge and calm water. I cannot do for others outside my closest family and my core friendships. Loss. We have lost so much and I am in transition. Part of what I forgot or tried to unburden myself from was writing; what it had come to mean for me.  But what it meant, or what it was starting to represent for me was obligation and burden. Yes, there is a burden to carry as a writer and almost always I carry that with joy, but the elements of operating in a society of writers was what I felt trapped by. I came to a conclusion to only write when I feel like it and to not submit my work to journals anymore unless I am solicited to do so. It is not because I feel I have reached a level of status that it is beneath me; it’s just that I am not hungry.  I do not have the time to write, submit, write, submit, etc. I think of the John Lennon song’s “Watching the Wheels” because it expresses how I feel about my career as a writer.

What is it about writing that brings me joy? I am no longer playing the game. I am vitally more interested in growing my family, as we have lost so many of our blood and kin. If I can solidify my core family, blood or not, I will find that inner resolve to write something worthy and authentic. I will write words with blood-worth, with the meaning and impact that has always been my fiercest intention.

Significance

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Japanese lithophane cup, like ones in a tea set that I have inherited from my mother.

This poem came out of the creative writing work I am doing with women in recovery and/or transitioning from homelessness.  We are all survivors of something (myself included) and we are, if we choose to be, on a path of reclamation. More info on “Recovery Academy Two: Transformation of Lives through Poetry” can be found here: http://plastictheater.org/home/recovery-academy

This exercise was:

SIGNIFICANCE
Recall one object/thing. It could be a memento, a gift, something you mean to discard but have not, even the covering of dust on the furniture. Describe it in detail. Describe it with love or hate. What is its significance or insignificance to you? What will you do with/to it in the future?

 

SIGNIFICANCE
In 1972, my mother
rescued a wood
and glass cabinet
from the nuns
of Saint Genevieve’s.
Forty days after her death,
my brother slides
two glass shelves
off of their metal brackets,
and he and I carry
the cabinet to the back
of my car, open a door
and slide it onto a quilt.
I was not ready
to remove the cabinet
from its place
the same place
it had been since I was five.
I am crushed but we laugh
at something
together,
have a bite to eat,
and move
toward the other things.

That glass cabinet
belongs to me.
I could have left it
in the back of my car
for as long as I didn’t need
space for groceries,
quarts of oil, a spare tire.
My husband carries it. I am not ready.
I shout, “I am not ready!”

I am not ready
to dust and shine it,
to put in the glass shelves;
but objects will find a home there.

Japanese cups
Brother David
gave to my mother.

(A gift of war—if you lift them
empty to the light,
a silhouette of a geisha’s face
is revealed in the bottom).

Buttons, buttons, buttons.
Hand-embroidered handkerchiefs
and the white gloves
she wore at her wedding—

This dark morning it is only me awake; only my eyes open in this house.

 

 

Clare L. Martin

 

©2014 Clare L. Martin

A poem for my husband as we celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary

Our anniversary is August 4th, 2014 and we will celebrate 25 years of marriage. This poem was inspired by music performed at  Acadiana Wordlab on June 21st by our dear friend, James Perry (who also attended our wedding 25 years ago).  Thank you, James.

I read this to Dean and he loves it.  Sharing the love with you all.

Clare

Sweet Kiss

“When you make the sacrifice in marriage, you’re sacrificing not to each other but to unity in a relationship.”
~ Joseph Campbell

ANNIVERSARY

 for my husband, Dean

Honey tones from a violin
a godly woman on her knees
at the prie-dieu
all is holy
all is holy
we are immersed
in streams of holy notes

come to me clean
we will lie together
whole
this night
with open windows
in each other’s arms
open
relinquished of weariness
one kiss

light and more light
races westward
we have until sunset to say
the words never spoken
no more hurricane surges
to erode us
no more devastation
or years to erase
our future is blue sky

this slender time, silence:
a roseate spoonbill
sails over marshlands
fire on the horizon
we burn what is dead
we pick up the pieces
build and rebuild higher this time

our bond a salvation

my groom, my dearest
your laugh, your compassion
your sweet kiss that night
amber light against white walls
a hurricane in the gulf
our beloveds around us
true prayer
is in all our living
not just words
not just deeds
but the movement of our bodies
prayer in our arms
when we embrace
each other, or a stranger
as friend
when we hold open a door
and say good morning
we must be prayer
in all things

even in our desolate cries
we commune with God

you and I and our child
commune, miraculously healed—
these celebrations
moment by moment
no promise of time, just this
all because of a white dress
antique gold rings
the sum of days:
a twenty-five-year song

Clare L. Martin
7/1/14

 


DnC wedding

“Out of sorrow beautiful things may come.”

What I hope to achieve in the nine sessions of working with women clients of Acadiana Outreach is to give participants, through a structured, weekly creative writing workshop, tools to strengthen their ability to name thoughts and emotions and convey them artistically, and poem-making skills which may lead to positive breakthroughs and life-happenings by tapping into the resilience of the creative mind.

By offering skill-building creative writing exercises and prompts, sharing empowering literary works, and allowing for free-writing  time, I hope to inspire participants to be able to create something beautiful, honest and uniquely their own through the craft of poetry.  By creating a safe and nurturing atmosphere in our group sessions, I hope the participants will have the assurance to reach into their creative minds to find deeper self-awareness, keys to success, and possibly true healing.

In my own personal experience, creative writing has led me out of despair, allowed me to express joy and love in sensory, beautiful language, and come to a place where I feel honored to be me. It is my hope that participants will find their “true voices” via new creative skills that may give rise to creative problem-solving in circumstances they face in their everyday lives.

Art is vital and necessary, and creative acts are transformative. We can transform. We can rise above and live in hope. The positive effects of writing our very lives can lead one out of places of darkness.  I believe that through creative writing, through the process of discovery and poetic documentation, we can find our way, recover and thrive.

I am committing to this project enthusiastically to be able to interact with these women, lead them to new awareness and appreciation for poetry as a vital tool of self-expression. I am committed to the work, and have great hopes for this project.

~CLM

 

 

Clare L. Martin’s debut collection of poetry, Eating the Heart First, was published fall 2012 by Press 53 as a Tom Lombardo Selection. Martin’s poetry has appeared in Avatar Review, Blue Fifth Review, Melusine, Poets and Artists and Louisiana Literature, among others. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web, for Best New Poets and Sundress Publication’s Best of the Net. Her poems have been included in the anthologies The Red Room: Writings from Press 1, Best of Farmhouse Magazine Vol. 1, Beyond Katrina, and the 2011 Press 53 Spotlight. She is a lifelong resident of Louisiana, a graduate of University of Louisiana at Lafayette, a member of the Festival of Words Cultural Arts Collective and a Teaching Artist through the Acadiana Center for the Arts. Martin founded and directs the Voices Seasonal Reading Series in Lafayette, LA, which features new and established Louisiana and regional writers.