I was doing a training weekend at the Boulder Shambhala Center in November 2003, and in the midst of a meditation session I had a sudden haiku-piphany.
There's just one thing I want you to say -"metoo!"
I know you’re supposta let go of all thoughts during meditation, even the good ones, but that one I held on to. It summed up too well all the yearning of my past and present and seemed like some kind of compass for the future.
To protect ourselves we withhold so much about our experience from each other. Sometimes we flat out lie. It leaves us all feeling so alone in our experience. And it feels so good when someone else finally confesses a truth that relates to and validates our experience.
I realized it was the MeToo feeling that connected me to all my favorite writers. For some of my thoughts and feelings I was only MeToo’d by authors, even tho we might be separated by great distances and even by decades and centuries. And I decided that was exactly the experience I wanted to leave for my potential audiences.
I started writing my novel The Reality Traveler in June of 2005. It was originally intended to just be a story about me going on a cross-country road trip to a wedding, but it soon became intertwined with the concept of MeToo. Thru all my adventures and misadventures on that trip the yearning of relation, in even the smallest, most mundane way like liking the same old song, was the common thread. A “Reality Traveler” was the term I invented for those I saw, like myself, who were called upon by The Gods to MeToo the people of the world and provide a necessary counterweight to The MeNotzies, the ones who make us feel ashamed for being different.
This project was beyond me at first, and I hadta keep rewriting it cuz I continually felt like a more wise and skilled writer after every draft. It was not just that I wanted the world to see the best of what I could do, but I felt like the message was too important to screw up.
In 2008 the open mics started to become a real core part of my life, and MeTooing became as tangible as ever. By a laugh or a nod you could actually witness an audience relating with you in real time. While I’d been venturing into some more abstract writing until that point (thanks Naropa), from then on I focused on just being simple, fun, and relatable.
Many people who’ve known me and my work are well aware of my attachment to the phrase “MeToo.” My first three books (2008-2009) were all titled or subtitled “MeToo Poems.” And my other book Pizzas and Mermaid (2014) was subtitled “MeToo Stories.” I’ve also held MeToo reading events in which everyone shares personal first-person writing, and the audience are required to shout out “MeToo” whenever they relate.
The Reality Traveler continued to challenge and burden me. I would write a new draft every single year from 2009 until 2016. I finally at the end of last year told myself this latest draft will be the final one for better or worse. I had it professionally edited and submitted to agents and publishers in 2017. It got no response, and by October a new challenge arose.
That was when Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual assault was revealed, leading to a cascade of revelations about inappropriate male sexual behavior, and victim’s bonding together on social media under #metoo.
It would be too simple to say I felt like they took my phrase. Obviously they’re words everyone uses all the time. And any time they’re said it’s a good thing which brings people together. I’m also a supporter of the movement, as I am with anyone who feels like they’ve been treated unfairly. It’s also caused me to look into my own past and recognize moments when I objectified women and/or wanted to will my desires upon others. Revealing experience which was previously concealed cuz of shame and intimidation is the essence of MeToo.
But the complication is that the phrase seems to have now become synonymous with the women’s movement. As a male, I’m aware that my use of the phrase may now be perceived as trying to re-appropriate it or diminish the movement. I don’t expect any publisher to want to touch my manuscript now because of it.
I would just step aside and surrender my attachment to it, except that it’s inseparable from the novel I spent 12 years writing and the message I want to bring the world. I’ve decided the best thing to do is just put it out there myself and face whatever reaction comes. As of today I’ve started posting a free online serial version on my new website therealitytraveler.com. And I’ll be releasing ebook and print versions sometime soon.
I wonder if it can connect with a similar spirit as the #metoo movement, and perhaps show its further possibilities. I believe, at its best, the phrase is synonymous with compassion itself. What can we all MeToo about? Can we actually MeToo about everything? even bad stuff? Maybe that’s how we forgive and let go and foster real peace in the world.
At any rate, I’m excited to finally bring The Reality Traveler out in the world this year. I needed to do it for myself, and I hope others can find it insightful, entertaining, and soothing.
Thanks for listening,