Deep Breaths - New Phase of Life

Image Description: Charlotte Kaufman wearing a pair of glasses and staring at the computer screen with slight smile on her face.

– This post was written on 8/22/18 but I’m only getting a chance to post it today. –

Today is the first day that both of my kids are in elementary school.

I’m sitting here in my workout clothes because I’m going hiking at lunch. Here in my room I'm wearing my long robe over my clothes because the days are already turning colder in Mammoth and it’s the perfect full body house coat and I’m staring at the computer screen and just….listening to the silence.

Eric and I work from home in separate rooms. After a long summer of both girls at home while we worked, I’m fluctuating between residing in the creative space that working without distractions allows and getting up to check on what they are doing only to remember that they aren’t here or in the yard for me to check on.

This is often why I go away to write, because even when I have alone time the thoughts of being a mother and needing to check on and interact with my kids never leave. I recently read and loved this piece by Claudia Dey in The Paris Review entitled Mothers as the Makers of Death. In it she explains:

Here is the artist-mother’s bar graph: line one—the multiplying size and need of her expression—held up against line two—the rapid dissolution of time. To write is to be in conversation with yourself, to preserve a state of being so you can conclude a sequence of thinking and feeling. The enemy to this process is intrusion. Children, in all of their beauty and wildness and strange genius, are, in the way of a meteorite, an intrusion.

{ Claudia’s latest novel, Heartbreaker, was released yesterday. Check it out. }

Image Description: A collage photo. Photo on left shows Eric and Charlotte Kaufman on their deck hugging their youngest daughter L. Photo on right shows L and C Kaufman with their arms around each other and smiling at the camera.

I’m staring at my screen because I’m sifting through waves of simultaneous expressions of joy at the freedom that time with my children gone from the home each day will give me and sorrow knowing that time is the enemy of us all. That my girls are growing before my very eyes. I am split between the deep desire to express myself through writing, alone, and to be present for my children in every way I can. The truth is I cannot completely do both so I do the best I can and hope it’s enough for them and for me.

Image Description: A screenshot of Charlotte Kaufman’s Facebook feed from August 22, 2017 showing a woman’s hand pouring two glasses of sparkling rosé wine with a pool and Palm Springs hotel in the background.

A year ago today I was in Palm Springs and I had just finished the first full draft of the Rebel Heart manuscript. For that too, I had to go away to write. When I go away it allows me to do this, like last weekend when I needed to finish draft SIX of that manuscript I completed last year in Palm Springs. I booked a hotel in Bishop, a town an hour south of me, and I wrote undistracted.

I’ll be able to write more day to day with my kids in school and I’m deeply excited at the prospect. I’ll still have to juggle my day job and my roles as wife, mother, friend, and human, but with the kids gone for large parts of the day, the space to create will be there and I welcome it.

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The Seven Day Full-Color Photo Challenge

A recent trend on Facebook has been to nominate friends to the seven day Black and White Photo Challenge. If you’re nominated, you post a black and white photo a day that has no people and contains no explanation. When my friend, Staci, nominated me, I chose to rebel. I’ve been reading and resonating with Lidia Yuknavitch’s book, The Misfit’s Manifesto, so this rebelling fit in perfectly. I’ve compiled my posts from Facebook in one blog post here.

I give you my Full-color Photo Challenge responses with plenty of people and tons of description.

If you are so moved, tag a friend for their own full-color challenge. #FullColorPhotoChallenge

Day 1

Here's Day 1 of 7 of my full-color life. Plenty of people and tons of description.

Full Color Photo Challenge Charlotte Kaufman (1).jpg

In Young Women (the Sunday school for female teenagers in a Mormon church) I raised my hand again and asked, "Why can't women hold the priesthood?" I had been asking this Sunday after Sunday and no one had given me a reply that made a lick of sense.

"Women are already spiritual enough. They don't need that blessing."

"But men do?"

"That's right, it's a blessing and a gift to them and then we can follow their spiritual leadership."

"So we're already so spiritual that we don't need the Priesthood, but the guys who have to have it bestowed on them are leading? Why aren't women the leaders in the first place? I mean, if we're so spiritual?"

"That's not how the Lord set things up."

"So we're already good to go, spiritually, and we need to listen to those who are just now getting the 'spiritual-ness' given to them. Do I have that right?"

"Charlotte I think it's time for you to step outside for awhile. Please leave the room."

I was 14. I gathered my things with my cheeks burning. Not with shame, but with fury. 'Sure,' I thought, I'll leave the room and enter the rest of my life.'

Photo info: Acting in a variety show with my father (at left). Me (at right), after my father had abused me, but still being silent about it under the erroneous belief that my silence would save my siblings. I'm standing in the full knowledge that everything I'd been taught about the world was a lie.

Originally appeared on Facebook here.

Day 2

Day 2 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

Full Color Photo Challenge Charlotte Kaufman (2).jpg

I learned how to ride my bike when I was 5 or 6. I still remember duck-waddling my feet and doing that fast enough until I could push off and start coasting. First my feet trailed, skimming across the concrete, because I didn't trust the mechanics of the motion. Then the sudden thrill of realizing how the bike worked, how it stayed up even if my feet rested on the pedals, just as long as I kept it moving. I had done it! I'd discovered a truth about the world that had been hidden from me until that moment. What else, I wondered would I discover that day? I was filled with possibilities.

Over the next few weeks I kept riding. I learned how to catch myself to one side or the other as the bike slowed down. I figured out how I only needed to push a tiny bit and start pedaling to gain the miraculous ability that is balancing and moving on two wheels.

I became so confident that I started to venture further away from my house. First just down the street, then I'd cross over and ride the other side of the street; I could always see where I lived. After enough of those rotations, I branched out, cruising down a side street, then coming back to the intersection where, if I craned my neck, my house was still in sight.

Finally, I started to fly down other streets, doing big loops, first one block away, then two, then three. One day I tore around a corner of a new street and into a patch of gravel. I'd never ridden on gravel before and my rear tire skidded out throwing me down. My right knee and both my hands landed hard as I was dragged across the ground. When I finally came to a stop, I started howling. It hurt so badly. Tiny pieces of gravel were embedded in my palms along with long scratches on my knee that bled. After several moments of wailing like a wounded animal I cleared my head enough to look around. I'd been waiting for an adult to run up and help me. Surely, someone would hear me crying and come to my aide; that's what adults did. Or maybe a neighborhood kid would see me and then go get their mom. I continued sobbing and glancing in disbelief at my bleeding palms and my torn up knee. There were chunks of gravel dug into the skin of my leg.

I looked around again, still crying. Cars drove by but no one stopped. The houses looked still and no kids were outside. A flash of realization hit me: no one was coming to help. No one knew where I was. I was going to have to get back home on my own. I couldn't believe it.

Digging the gravel out of the skin was excruciating, but it's what was hurting me the most. Tears plopped down on my skinny legs as I plucked each piece out. Shaking, I stood up, picked up my bike, and lifted my leg over it. I pushed off, crying, and the motion of pedaling seemed to tear the skin on my knee more and more. My palms left blood on the handles, but I rode that bike home.

I dreamed of the reception I'd receive once I got home, the hugs, the 'oh-my-goodnesses,' the 'I'm so sorry you were all alone!' After biking through the pain for two blocks I knew I was close to my own street but as I neared my yard a new feeling was welling up inside of me: pride. I was so proud of myself for figuring that moment out. I had gotten home on my own, even in great pain. There had been no one there for me, but I hadn't needed anyone after all; I had only needed me.

I'd discovered a truth about the world that had been hidden from me until that moment: I was enough. What else, I wondered would I discover that day? I was filled with possibilities.

Originally appeared on Facebook here.

Day 3

Day 3 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

"Ruth Bader Ginsburg is my hero because she was the first Jewish, female, Supreme Court justice and even as a girl, she cared about equality." ~ Cora, age 7

Originally appeared on Facebook here

Day 4

Day 4 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

"Mama, thanks for getting the candy from the scary clown for me."

"Sure thing, baby, but what about that giant cat? That didn't scare you too?"

"Oh no, that kitty was my friend."

Lyra, age 4, dressed as Baby Jaguar from Go, Diego, Go.

Originally appeared on Facebook here.

Day 5

Day 5 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

I recently did genetic testing with 23andMe and one of the traits they reported on said I was 'more likely to consume caffeine than the average person.' I present this photo as early photographic evidence of my need for the drink.

Originally posted on Facebook here.

Day 6

Day 6 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

We bought Rebel Heart in 2005, just 10 months into dating each other. We moved aboard her full-time in June of 2007. Until we lost her in the spring of 2014, we lived the glorious minimalist lifestyle that comes with residing in 36' feet of sailboat.

People would ask me how I could do it, how I could live with so few possessions and I always answered honestly, I loved it. There were a few things I missed about land life. I missed having a couch. A really comfortable couch. The kind you can lie next to your partner on, snuggle up and watch a movie together. 

I missed Le Creuset cookware. I missed house plants, in particular, succulents (cue all the sailors who are going to say, 'I have plants onboard!' If you have a catamaran, don't even go there you multi-huller, you. And if you are a mono-huller with houseplants, then you are wayyyy coooler than we were.) 

I envied very little about landlubber's amenities, save for their comfy couches and for their ability to store away beautiful things, like cake stands. I secretly lusted after cake stands while living aboard a sailboat. I wanted a magic drawer in my galley that held all the pretty accoutrements that land people could pull out to dazzle and entertain guests with. 

For the first two years after losing her, we thought we'd probably buy another boat, so we didn't acquire land-based life things, like an 8.5" Turquoise Glass Pedestal Cake Stand with Knob Handle Domes. And for the past year living in the mountains I haven't bought pretty things quite yet. Partly because minimalism gets into your bones. But it's really that I've had a hard time allowing myself to fall in love with another home. What if we lost her again? Could I love another home the way I loved Rebel Heart? A year of Sierra sunlight has finally convinced me. I think I can love again, and I'm ready to buy a cake stand.

Originally appeared on Facebook here.

Day 7

Day 7 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

I went to Tucson to visit my grandparents when I was 25. Their son (my dad) was the first in their family to complete college (I was the first on my mom's side.) My grandfather, we called him Papa, was a recovering alcoholic who always smelled like coffee and kept little bowls of dinner mints around the house.

He was sitting out on the porch one afternoon. A man of few words, he didn't say anything when I first sat down but he eventually turned to me and asked, "Charlotte, do you like men?"

I furrowed my eyebrows not understanding but then I rolled with it. "Sometimes I do. Men do awful things, ya know? The good ones I like."

"But you're attracted to them?"

I wasn't sure I understood what he was asking.


"You're not a lesbian?"

"Hahaha, why do you ask? Does it matter?"

"How old are you now?" He seemed so serious.

"I'm 25."

"Don't you want to get married? Have kids?"

"Really, Papa? Because I'm 25 and I'm not married, I might be a lesbian?"

"Tell me then."

"I'm not a lesbian, but I assume it would be okay with you if I were." I glanced at him. He looked out at the yard.

"I like men. I'll get married one day, if I want. I'll have kids one day, if I want. Women are waiting longer to have kids nowadays, especially if they get an education. And lesbians can have kids."

He nodded and that was the end of it.

I started dating Eric a few months later. We got married when I was 29 and had our first kid when I was 30. I married him and had kids because I wanted to, not because Papa thought I might be a lesbian or that I was already an 'old maid.'

I tell both of our daughters that they can date men or women, or men AND women, or no one at all. That they can have kids, or not. And the best part is that now I can tell my kids they can marry who they want, if they are straight or lesbian, or somewhere in between.

#BeWhoYouWant #LoveWhoYouWant#MyFavoriteThingAboutPapaWasThoseDinnerMints

Originally appeared on Facebook here.

If you are so moved, tag a friend for their own full-color challenge. #FullColorPhotoChallenge

My Loudest #MeToo

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein news, women across the nation have been using the hashtag #MeToo to tell their own stories of sexual abuse, assault, and rape. For those of us who are survivors of attacks like these, and sadly, that is a VAST number of humans, this past week has been a hard one on social media. Many women are for the first time speaking the truths of what has happened to them and some are naming their abusers as well. Actions like these are powerful and I hope this moment is remembered in our collective consciousness as a massive example of women finding their voices and the courage to speak out against their attackers.

There are also many who are quiet. They don’t have the voice or the strength to say #MeToo, and that’s okay. This isn’t a contest and it’s certainly not a club anyone wants to be in. My heart aches for all of us, for those who are speaking out and those who still can’t. My phone has been buzzing all week from friends who are being re-traumatized every time they open social media and read another account. I have friends headed into their 36th hour of a panic attack, friends who’ve logged off Facebook entirely asking ‘can you just let me know when there are no more stories? I can’t keep reading them.’ Others ask me, ‘if I say #MeToo I don’t even know which incident I’m referring to. Does #MeToo mean ALL of them?’ And one who said, ‘I read that in addition to #MeToo we should #NameTheMonsters, but I don’t know their names. The men who raped me, I don’t know who they were.’

I shouted my loudest #MeToo on January 10th, 2014 when I published this article naming my father and telling the world that he sexually abused me and my younger sister. It took me days to write the post and there were two things I did not expect that happened when I posted it. The first was the re-traumatization I would experience as I received hundreds of emails and messages from women thanking me for sharing my story but also sharing their tales of abuse. Each message was a fresh slice of pain and I eventually had to leave social media for a time because I didn’t have the tools to handle reading about their abuse in addition to re-living my own. This is what is happening now to my friends with the #MeToo hashtag. I’m not upset with those sharing their stories and I’m not blaming them for the additional trauma being caused to others. The stories have to be told. I have been there though, so if this a difficult time for you to be on social media, you have permission to log off, to take a break, to not read and to not look. Take care of yourself.

The other thing my sister and I did not expect was some of our own siblings calling us liars after we exposed our father. Our own brothers and sisters sided with our father, the man who sexually abused us. This was mind blowing and beyond devastating. I had no words as I read their comments. It was unexpected and it was eye opening; in addition to exposing the abuse, we lost our siblings that day too. Later my therapist told me that it was very common. I share this now with those who are sharing their own #MeToos, be prepared for similar reactions from people in your life. There are those who would rather call you a liar then believe someone precious to them is capable of such great evil.

My #MeToo post in 2014 did not get me and my sister justice. The courts and our society are set up to protect abusers, not children and women. I have been told over and over by this society that it does not care about me, my sister, or what we went through. If you are reading this and you’re thinking, ‘but Charlotte,*I* care about you!’ well thank you. But society doesn’t. That’s very clear. I don’t want to write #MeToo. I want to write #FuckYou. Fuck you to every aspect of a world that does this to children, that allows this to happen to women. That gives no justice. That takes away our power from our birth to death. #FuckYou.

And now I’m raising two daughters and I’m terrified for them. I don’t use that word lightly. I’m talking about the kind of terror that keeps me up at night, that has my daughters enrolled in martial arts instead of dance classes, and that will teach them how to use guns properly and take self- defense courses. I talk about every aspect of how to keep themselves safe, ‘we lock the car door as soon as we get in, swivel your head and look around you when walking in public, in parking lots, at the mall, on the street, or talk to me about who in this crowd you would approach for help if you needed it?’

I’d rather them be in therapy one day saying, ‘ugh, my mom was always so concerned for my safety and taught me a million ways to protect myself,’ then ‘today I need to talk about being sexually assaulted by my [insert any word here for stranger or trusted adult in their lives].

But the terrible part is that no matter how many tools I give them it can still happen to them. You can’t protect yourself when you’re 5 or 10 years old. I know. Or 19, 20, 21, 24, 35, 45, 68, etc. There’s a million ways you can be assaulted even when you know every trick in the book to protecting yourself the best you can. And that’s a horrible place to be as a mother raising two young girls. When will they join the chorus of #MeToos? I want it to be never. NEVER. But I think that’s why the hashtag has gotten under my skin from day one. I’m terrified of my own children joining it one day. To my #MeToo I add a giant #FuckYou to every man who made me a #MeToo-er.  MeToo. FuckYou. And I DontForgiveYou.

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