Category Archives: vulnerability

Why Too Many Flashbacks Might Be a Warning of Deeper Story Problems

I just enjoyed the heck out of this post.

It’s part stand-up comedy, enough vulnerability to make Brene Brown proud and teeming with great points about flashbacks.

Survivors live in the world of flashbacks. We experience them often in our day-to-day, hour-to-hour lives until our heads hit the pillow and then they often dominate our unconscious dream time.

What appeals to me here is that it gives us an element of control to our otherwise uncontrollable lives. Many of us owe our past a debt of gratitude for making us a fierce, strong warriors of the present. We’ve endured some major shit and can often yawn in the face of adversity as adults. But this gives us the tools to pull the meat of those experiences off the bone and finally end that pointless blabbering of our flashbacks.

Kudos to Kristen Lamb for this gem.
http://authorkristenlamb.com

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi. Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

This week we have been discussing flashbacks. What are they? Why do readers, agents, editors generally want to stab them in the face? Is it truly a flashback or is the writer employing an unorthodox plotting structure (The Green Mile or The English Patient)? Shifting time IS a legitimate literary device, but like ALL literary devices, it has strengths and weaknesses.

Theme is wonderful. But if we lay it on too thick, we can turn off readers because our story comes across as preachy or lecturing. Symbolism? Love it! But overdo this and readers can get irritated. Can the drapes JUST BE BLUE? Deus ex machina IS a legitimate literary device. Feel free to use it. I wouldn’t recommend it, but knock yourself out.

As I like to say, Have fun storming the castle! *waves and grins*

Deus…

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she is meeting herself in unknown ways….

Losing herself more often...These are not my words, although they represent me well.  A wisewoman wrote them, one I’ve recently stumbled upon quite serendipitiously, describing my mystic journey this summer.  As I read this passage, I felt she must have been present in some way to know that I’ve been losing track of time, losing my ability to remain grounded.

My absorption in the knowing of myself stretched out through most of the summer.  It was during this time that I had few words outside of my mind and heart.  My need for solitude became greater than before and I sought it for nourishment and enlightenment.

Thank you to the universe for bringing these words to me during a time when I needed them the most.  Thank you for allowing me to use your words when I had no words present.  Thank you for manifesting this healing concept in my world.

At some point during my summer of secret travels, they appeared with this image and I give credit to Sukhvinder Sircar for their origination.  For more of her beautiful writings and images, visit her blog, Joyous Woman! and find her on Facebook.

Nowadays, she is often losing track of time, day, week and month. Her absorption in the moment, in her work, her art, her prayer is getting deeper. She is beginning to ‘lose time’.  When she arrives back from her secret travels, she says ~ ‘I don’t know where I went’.  Yet she knows she was in a zone where everything already exists.

Some day, when you chance upon such a woman who is deeply absorbed and ask her ‘who are you?’, chances are you may see a knowing coupled with a blank expression. There are no words yet to her knowing.

Sometimes she worries about going missing. Yet loves the sweetness of loosing herself. The more absent she is, the more present she gets. 

She’s meeting herself in unknown ways.

*Sukhvinder Sircar*


an unexpected moment of peace…..

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Photo credit: An’ Marie at callmeanmarie.com

Peace and joy are elusive to survivors.

We have to learn and re-learn these types of experiences, cultivating the beautiful aspects of life as if we were students in school grasping a new skill.  I’ve usually been able to be kind of a joy parasite (not to be confused with a joy sucker) who gravitates toward frollicking animals, playful children or any group or individual who is just laughing unabashedly.  I watched and learned what this beautiful emotion was and then set out to mimic it.  These situations always felt right and kind to my heart although in direct conflict with my upbringing.  Kindness and love weren’t taught or shown but pathology and self destruction was handed out freely and often.

Survivors as a general rule haven’t learned how to play well or experience peace.  If we did learn to play, what we were probably experiencing was destruction in action disguised as play;  i.e. out of control drinking/drug/food/anger (fill in your favorite addiction or crazy shit here), driving recklessly, giving ourselves hearts and bodies to men that were undeserving of that sacred gift.  So many behaviors were masked as “a good time” that it took decades for me to truly figure it out.

During my high school years, I usually found myself gravitating toward healthier families.  I certainly can’t take credit for this action for it wasn’t conscious.  But I’ve come to believe that living things; plants, animals, people will gravitate toward health and love and I base that belief on some serious reflection upon my past behaviors.  I wanted a better life and in many ways, set out to get one even as a child.

One family I attached to had two parents, 6 children who were blissfully crowded into a tiny house with a tiny kitchen.  Many families grew up in this fashion in my day, no one owned a McMansion or rarely had a bedroom to themselves.  It was customary to share a room and even a bed with a sibling.  And this was the way it was at C. J.’s  house.  She, myself and several other friends grew up in that tiny house; from junior high girls, into high school girls, to brides, then mothers and now grandmothers.  We’ve buried parents, sent sons to war, survived cheating husbands and celebrated our re-marriages. We’ve lost touch and reconnected many times, rarely without missing a beat.  They are my ya-ya’s, my sisters.

I had the good fortune to spend a weekend with C.J.  It’s always an easy kind of experience to spend time with friend from long ago, who knows your stories and your quirks.  We’ve transcended needing to explain things as we just know each other that well.

It was the usual agenda; yard sales, thrift stores, food, playing with the dogs and cats, naps, late night talks with the girls.  Yeah, girls….56 year old girls. All the good things in life.  My last afternoon was marked by C. J. hosting a dinner (and she’s a fabulous cook by the way) for me before I left for home. Her modest farm home was full just as her childhood home was and served as a playground to many activities that day. After an afternoon of swimming with the grandkids, I plopped myself (temporarily of course) on the living room couch where I soon found myself snuggled in and stretched out.

I can’t exactly describe what happened but whatever “it” was, I’ve managed to hold onto “it” for weeks, even sharing the feeling with other friends. Sitting on the over stuffed couch, I found myself sinking in deeply, letting my tension float away and began to absorb the energy of this household. The sheer comfort of the environment gave way to me lying down putting a throw pillow over my face.  I became so relaxed and peaceful that I couldn’t resist  the temptation to surrender.  During the most blissful two hour nap I’ve had in a long time,  I floated in and out of the commotion of the grandkids playing and eventually crying, the miffed off weiner dog’s continuous bark to get back into the house, doors slamming, the phone ringing, the parental and grand-parental units shushing the kids to be quiet as to not wake me and the most delicious smells of garlic and anchovy coming from the kitchen.  It was a sensory delight.  And it was heaven.

The more that the everyday, normal family life noise increased the more peaceful I became.  A thought came to me as I grinned under my throw pillow; this must be what its like to be a part of a family.  It was okay for me to relax, to feel peace, that loved ones surrounded me, even cooked food to nourish me after my nap.  I recalled a long forgotten dream as a child to belong to a nice family.  And that simple gesture on C. J. ‘s part became a truly, magical afternoon for me.

I left for home that evening, after my nap and dinner, accompanied by my yard sale treasures and fresh tomatoes from their garden.  My most treasured gift was the lightness and peace that I felt.

During the 2 hour drive home, I think my heart actually smiled.

An Marie 1ecc9394106646b69ed2a35e726cecc5

Photo credit: An’ Marie

To view other works by this artist, visit www.callmeanmarie.com


love story in there….somewhere….

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There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.

I seem to have made it through the latest chapter of dark times.

Hopefully.

When I started this blog, I felt lost.  Then I found myself through writing and gave myself a voice that I’d never possessed before, at least for myself.  I’d been championing for others for decades; animal rights, women’s rights, diversity, environment.  It had become painful apparent to me that a great deal of time had been spent advocating for others and not myself.  That was a game changer.

Writing this blog has enabled me to find my voice through writing but look several issues squarely in the eye.  Honoring myself was one.  A simple bumper sticker noticed by the artist, Terri St. Cloud of Bone Sigh Arts.  Honor Yourself.  Simple words that were nearly impossible to integrate.

The next issue was that I couldn’t wrap my thinking around the fact that someone, anyone would want to read what I had to say.  In my mind, my words had to be profound, a literary masterpiece before putting them out for the world to see.  Shouldn’t I get a MFA in writing or something or some sort of artistic approval before being so bold as to put my words, my life, my history into words?  Well, that answer came soon too.  Survivors trickled in, slowly at first, some stumbling and fragmented, some already having honed their beautiful craft of expression.  All were worthy and I felt so blessed to be a part of a counterculture emerging for survivors, men and women, who were taking back their power.  I wanted to be a part of that.  For me, it was coming home.

My most recent absence is due to my utter confusion and re-entry into that dark place.  You see, I thought I’d been through it and had emerged complete, or at least complete enough.  I thought I was finally, finally in that safe cocoon where I could share my story of abuse and survival with the clarity of hindsight.  I was wrong, at least sort of.

This summer I separated from my husband.  My fairy tale crashed and I felt that I was a fraud.  How on earth could I write stories of hope and love when I had failed at my own love story?  Slowly, I moved through the hazy days of summer with my tool bag (purple of course) of rest, solitude, meditation, reading and dark chocolate.  I cried when I felt like it, wandered through the library, raged at Grandmother moon in the wee hours of the morning when sleep eluded me, slept any time I felt fatigued and tried, oh how I tried, to find joy anywhere I could.  I picked flowers and herbs from my beautiful garden and gave them to anyone I could think of; my church for Sunday morning service, the women at the convenient mart on the corner who are always so kind and make me laugh every time I’m there buying chocolate, my dear friend’s mother who was passing this summer, a friend who works long hours and commutes into the city each day.  I gave them just because.  Just because in the absence of my own joy, I needed to create that precious spark of joy for someone else and live vicariously off of that until I had my own.

Many, many people supported me though this passage, you will find them on my blogroll and Facebook page.  I simply couldn’t have weathered this without logging on to see their daily posts on love, writing, poetry, painting, nature, food.  I traveled with several as they made major changes in their lives too and hope that I provided them a wee bit of support also.

Slowly that spark began to burn again.  Now I have more words and more insight into myself.  I tip my hat to the dark side, purpose well served.

I still live a love story.  Really, there is a love story in here somewhere.  One that, once again, must begin with myself.  With or without a partner, my daughter, my dogs, my house.  I can write words of hope because now I’ve lived them again.  I’m not a fraud but an innocent person who stumbles and trips often, sometimes sitting in the mud puddle I fell in, squalling and crying.  But then there are times, when I laugh and dance around with a soggy tutu.

It’s all good.


the puddle of self love…

magicThere are so many wonderful concepts in Terri St. Cloud’s recent blog post, “real feel“.  I would strongly encourage you to take the time to visit her site, Bone Sigh Arts, and read the post on her reflections on self love.  Near the end of the blog post is one of my favorite parts where she says she wants to swim in the sea of love, but then realizes that she may in fact be more in the pond of love.  Ha, I loved that!

Its so easy to be vulnerable and open after reading Terri’s writing and art.  She’s a master at self reflection and being vulnerable.  Seriously, Brene Brown should be studying her!

Figuring that I have to start somewhere in the monumental task of unlearning unloving behaviors and learning to practice self love, I find myself more in the puddle of self love.  Not swimming in the sea of love, or being in Terri’s pond of love but a big puddle of love. Its an okay place to be and I’m happy here.  I’m splashing around, discovering what works and what doesn’t, clearing out the muck to see the treasures hidden deep in my puddle.

Following Terri’s lead of vulnerability and self disclosure, I will admit that I don’t take as good of care of myself as I could and certainly not as well as I care for my daughter, husband, pets, garden, friends, community, job etc.  And the answer to the why don’t I take better care of myself question is that I haven’t fully learned how to yet.

There is great comfort in seeing that I’ve taught my daughter how to love and accept herself.  I’ve been a consistent reminder to her (actually she sometimes compares me to an annoying gnat buzzing around) that she is a beautiful creature with extraordinary and unique gifts.  I see how she cares for herself and I feel great pride in that. But still it gets me wondering why I don’t practice it more with myself.

Actually, over the last 5-10 years but self care has increased exponentially. And like Terri, I’ve had so many, many moments where I didn’t know who I was, what kind of life I wanted, what sorts of books I enjoyed reading.  For myself, it comes from not only, lack of a role model but actual negative reinforcement to the concept of caring for one’s self.  Coming from a family that was bred on stoicism and weaned on martyrdom, I was taught and shown that life was a chore and one didn’t complain about it.  It was nose to the grindstone, don’t look up until you’re done, giving yourself a break was a sign of weakness kind of attitude.  Any peeks to the inside of ourselves could reveal our true selves which in my family, was the sworn enemy.  There was no telling where that kind of selfishness might lead you.

Geesh, so here I am.  Solo from my family, learning to splash in my puddle with my friends and acquaintances who believe in vulnerability, authenticity and the power of whole hearted love.  I like it here even though it still feels foreign.  Making major life changes do feel foreign for a while, until you reach a crossing over point where you look back and can’t believe that you ever lived as you did.  As I’m playing in my puddle, learning how I might swim in the pond of self love, I watch and model others who are practicing the same thing.  Some are in front of me, while some are behind me.  We are all learning at our own rates, blossoming in our own time.

I continue to thank everyone I’ve met along the journey who has challenged my old patterns of thinking and inspired me to adopt a more loving approach to myself.  I’m an eager student willing to learn.  I send gratitude to the universe for placing the perfect people and events in front of me.

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