On Going High

I am writing this from an artists’ colony in Florida.  I flew here yesterday morning, after waking up — as we all did — to a changed world.  A terrifying, disorienting world.  A world we didn’t know existed – or  perhaps denied its existence – until denial has become no longer possible.  With a broken heart, I boarded a plane I didn’t want to board, to come teach on a day I desperately didn’t want to teach.  I walked through two airports, one foot in front of the other, looking at the sea of faces passing by me, feeling a bewildering sense of separateness, of alienation.

To be a writer, and to be a teacher of writing, is to constantly, steadfastly open oneself up to what is.  To not shy away.  To feel fear and embrace that fear — otherwise known as courage — and to find a voice for what feels impossible to say.  Yesterday, I was reminded of one of the “sins”  listed in the holy Yom Kippur prayer of Al Chet: “For the sin of succumbing to despair.”

Twice in my life, I have wondered if I would ever be able to find words again – if finding words is even something worth attempting.  The first was when my son was terribly sick as an infant, and we spent a year not knowing if he would survive.  During that year, I sat at my desk — when I could bring myself to sit at my desk — and stared into space.  The futility of my own endeavor loomed large.  What could my small pen do, when faced with the enormity of that impossible loss?  The second time I wondered if I would ever find words again was on September 11, 2001.  On that day, a writer friend sent around William Faulkner’s 1949 Nobel Acceptance speech.  Just about every writer I know received or sent that rousing cry, those healing words.  I decline to accept the end of man.

And so, this morning I will leave my solitary room and walk to a classroom where students will be waiting — people who also boarded planes yesterday morning, who also put one foot in front of the other, who also did not succumb to despair.  I decline to accept the end of man. 

I will lead them in meditation.  I will read them poems.  I will ask them to write from the deepest parts of themselves.  We will talk about grace, courage, commitment, endurance, and kindness.  We will transcend.  It’s all we can do.  We will go high.

  • Jessica

    Even from Australia i feel awful. Awful for my young daughter. Awful for my friends who have strived so hard to provide good role models for their sons who are being sent mixed messages.

    In a way Australia is worse than the US because we elected the “deplorable” senators first who dont give a damn about empathy or respect or the hard fought rights of women and minorities. But i have hope for me and my friends and the children we are raising who we are giving the strength to lead the country in future for the greater good. Because thats all that matters at the end of the day. The “good” for everyone.

    • Danishapiro

      Lovely words, Jessica. Thank you.

  • katrinakenison

    Ah, I am so glad to share this work with you, this path, this walk to the high places.

    • Danishapiro

      As am I, dear, dear Katrina. xxx

  • Kathy Doherty

    Love this, thank you for healing words we are desperate for.

    • Danishapiro

      You’re welcome. I’ll keep trying to find the words.

  • Bill Facker

    In the spirit of your message .. thought I’d share my writing of yesterday .. in the spirit of Humanity and Love. http://kauai-to-paris.com/blog/ma-voix-my-voice

    • Danishapiro

      Thanks for sharing, Bill.

      • Bill Facker

        My pleasure .. all the best to you .. all the best to mankind. Aloha, Bill

  • lemead

    I met with Grace’s teachers today for a conference and her history teacher said that yesterday morning at school reminded him of nothing so much as 9/11. That was bracing to hear, but also, in the moment, not surprising. I love this. Yes. xox

    • Danishapiro

      I have felt echoes of 9/11 for the past couple of days as well. xox

  • Erica Stewart

    I’d like to propose a small edit: “I decline to accept the end of mankind.”

    • Danishapiro

      I agree… though I don’t feel quite right editing Faulkner:)

      • Karen Lee Ramos

        “humanity” or “humankind” would be more apropos, but I wouldn’t edit Faulkner either, lol.

  • Molly Downs

    Beautifully understanding and thoughtful. Thank you so much for sharing, as a writer I am feeling the same way yesterday I had to do a live training to teach others is how to put their work out into the world. It was so hard to be vulnerable and present but I did it. Today was better as I sought out healing from one of my most amazing healer friends. Grateful. ❤️️

    • Danishapiro

      Thanks, Molly. We’re all in this together.

  • Danishapiro

    Sending love to you, E. xx

  • Danielle Neary Davies

    Yes, yes, yes. Thank you for sharing and for including those wise words that Faulkner shared with the world all those years ago. It’s times like these when I’m glad I have a copy (which I’ll have to pin next to my desk) and for people like you, who remind us to keep moving, one foot in front of the other, and decline to accept the end of man.

    • Danishapiro

      Thanks, Danielle:))

  • Sharon Van Epps

    Thank you, Dani. I’ve been unproductively despairing for the past three days. This post was helpful.

    • Danishapiro

      Thanks, Sharon.

  • Wandering_Paws

    thank you for this. I have been surprised at my own reaction to the election,.. physically ill, rage, disgust, grief,… some comments compare the emotions of this election to 911,.. the events are kind of the same, imo, so makes sense to me that the emotions would be the same… I am trying to go high, but it is hard for me. very hard, but I will keep trying.

    • Danishapiro

      You are far from alone in these feelings. It’s so important to remember that. Many many of us are in a terrible state of shock and trauma. Thanks for sharing.

  • Marisa Goudy

    I’m trying desperately to pull myself out of the stories that swallow their own tail and contradict themselves across endless pages of my journal… I’m trying to write something that feels true for longer than the next five minutes.

    It’s my job to hold space for therapists and healers who want to write content that draws in new clients. Damn that’s hard when we’re all speechless or biting our lips, praying the words don’t come out wrong.

    It’s been six days since we learned our country is made of different stuff than we’d expected. It’s time to make sense of it all. Knowing that you did it so nobly last week is inspiration I sorely needed. Thank you.

    • Danishapiro

      Oh, thank you, Marisa. It’s damn hard indeed. A day at a time…

  • Mary Lamb Lucas

    I was there that day in the classroom in Florida. I have never felt more received, or more held by your effort, Dani, and by your ability to touch that place in all of us that refuses to give in to despair. Despair is, and was, lurking, waiting, hoping to lure us into its claws.

    • Danishapiro

      This means so much to me, Mary Lamb! Thank you. As a teacher, that is a tremendous compliment.