Tag Archives: inspiration

When You Feel Lonely

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Reblogged from the amazing Martha Beckhttp://marthabeck.com/2012/11/when-you-feel-lonely/

 

At times in my life, I have felt utterly lonely. At other times, I’ve had disgusting infectious diseases. Try admitting these things in our culture, and you’ll find they evoke identical responses: Listeners cringe with a mixture of pity, revulsion, and alarm. In a culture where everyone wants a happy family and a sizzling relationship, the phrase “I’m lonely” rings like the medieval leper’s shout of “Unclean! Unclean!”

Fortunately, we now treat disease not by isolating its victims, but by diagnosing and healing them. Finding those who can comprehend the emptiness of your heart, diagnosing and ameliorating its ailments, can keep you productively engaged when your loneliness is at its worst.

The Time-Tested BLD System

Allow me to introduce the Beck Loneliness Diagnostic System, which is based on years of research I’ve conducted by brooding about my own problems during bouts of emotional eating. My system divides loneliness into three categories—absolute, separation, and existential—each of which has different remedies. I prescribe two courses of action for each type: quick fixes (to feel better immediately) and long-term solutions (to banish it for good).

Type 1: Absolute Loneliness
This malady occurs when we believe, rightly or wrongly, that there is no one who understands us and no one who wants to. Absolutely lonely people have few personal interactions of any kind. Isolation creates indescribable despair, for which typical self-help advice—”Have a bubble bath! Try aromatherapy!”—is ridiculously inadequate. The only saving grace of this state is that it often hurts enough to motivate people to try the following prescriptions.

QUICK FIX
Basic human contact—the meeting of eyes, the exchanging of words—is to the psyche what oxygen is to the brain. If you’re feeling abandoned by the world, interact with anyone you can—today. If you can afford it, hire a good therapist; if you can’t, hire a bad one. Attend a 12-step group, claiming codependency if you have no addictions. Sift wheat from chaff later—right now, it’s “Hail, fellow! Well met.”

LONG-TERM SOLUTION
If you’re living completely on your own, you must find understanding somewhere, somehow. No matter how scary it is to learn and use social skills, absolute loneliness is scarier. The best method to break out of solitary confinement is to seek to understand others, and help them understand you.

A simple three-step communication strategy is the most effective way to accomplish this. When you meet people, show real appreciation, then genuine curiosity; offer an honest compliment (step 1) followed by a question (step 2). Say “Cool hat. Where’d you get it?” Most often this approach will result in a brief, pleasant chat. Occasionally, though, someone will answer in such an interesting or charming way that you’ll want to respond by volunteering information about yourself (step 3), such as “I can’t wear hats—they make me look like a mongoose.” Repeat these three steps, and you’ll gradually connect at deeper and deeper levels.

The key word is gradually. Understanding is a dance of seven veils in which strangers take turns revealing a little more about themselves—not everything at once. Be patient, and the three-step combo can take you all the way from discussions of headgear to conversations like “You’re amazing. Shall we get married?”

Type 2: Separation Loneliness
If you force yourself to communicate with people appreciatively and curiously, you’ll eventually emerge from absolute loneliness. However, you’ll still experience what I call separation loneliness. Traveling, empty nesting, and almost any job will distance you from friends and family. Only since the Industrial Revolution have most people worked in places away from their homes or been left to raise small children without the help of multiple adults, making for an unsupported life.

QUICK FIX
Use separations to remind yourself how wonderful it is that you have people to miss. Solo time can motivate you to demonstrate that love. Focus on communication over distance. Tell interesting stories on the phone or in an e-mail about your day. Let your favorite people see life through your eyes. Ask them about what they’ve been experiencing, and listen or read with total concentration. You’ll come to know one another in new ways, and absence really will make your hearts grow fonder. Once that’s done, I recommend finding understanding by doing what the song says: If you can’t be with the one you love…love the one you’re with. Use your appreciation-curiosity-openness combo on the folks around you.

LONG-TERM SOLUTION
This remedy requires facing some hard choices. If you’re continuously aching to be with people you never see, the rewards of your career or nifty home in the exurbs may not make up for the sacrifice. Many of my clients decide that their horrible jobs aren’t worth forfeiting years with their family. Others stop hanging out with people—even relatives—who drain them, in order to be with those who inspire them. You don’t have to make such decisions immediately, but you do have to make them. Every day brings new choices. If you want to end your isolation, you must be honest about what you want at a core level and decide to go after it.

Type 3: Existential Loneliness
The final type of estrangement is a bedrock fact of the human condition: the hollowness we feel when we realize no one can help us face the moments when we are most bereft. No one else can take risks for us, or face our losses on our behalf, or give us self-esteem. No one can spare us from life’s slings and arrows, and when death comes, we meet it alone. That is simply the way of things, and after a while, we may see it’s not so bad. In fact, existential loneliness, the great burden of human consciousness, is also its great gift—if we give it the right treatment.

QUICK FIX
One word—art. In the face of great sorrow or joy, love or loss, many human beings who went before me learned to express themselves sublimely through clumsy physical things: paint, clay, words, the movement of their bodies. They created works of art that remind me I am not alone in feeling alone. Seeking the company of people who have learned to transcend the isolation of an individual life, who have felt as I feel and managed to express it, is the best treatment I’ve found for existential loneliness. (Notice that this advice is the opposite of the quick fix for “absolute” loneliness; you may need both prescriptions.) Make your own artistic connections. Read novels, listen to samba, watch documentaries: Seek art from every time and place, in any form, to connect with those who really move you.

LONG-TERM SOLUTION
Same word—art. The quick fix is to appreciate others’ artistry; the real deal requires that you, yourself, become an artist. I’m not asking you to rival Picasso or Mozart, but I would challenge you to think the way they thought, to put aside convention and embarrassment and do whatever it takes to convey your essential self. Use anything you can think of to understand and be understood, and you’ll discover the creativity that connects you with others.

If you begin to apply these prescriptions, whether by drumming up the courage to connect, choosing a moment of love over a moment of work, or creating something as silly as a bad cartoon, you’ll soon find yourself stumbling across beauty and communion. Loneliness, far from revealing some defect, is proof that your innate search for connection is intact. So instead of hiding your loneliness, bring it into the light. Honor it. Treat it. Heal it. You’ll find that it returns the favor.

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Dark Souls Are Not to Fear, But to Love

Darkness

 

These words are not mine but instead, those of a courageous and insightful fellow warrior.  I’m fortunate to find these souls who in the absence of my words coming together to provide hope and compassion, they take over and provide us with comfort.  Please visit the link below to see the full article and more of Matthew’s beautiful writing.

In fact, do better.  Follow his blog and mine.  Spread the word as kindly as you can about the specific limitations and ultra-sensitive delights of a sexual abuse survivor.  We are worth it.  In this age where we strive to embrace the issues of racism, bigotry, violence, LGBT, transgender, bullying, etc., let’s begin by getting to know one another, the history we’ve experienced and the path on which we forge forward.  I’m ready, are you?

 

Dark Souls Are Not to Fear, But to Love

From Matthew Eaton: Writer, Child Sexual Abuse Survivor, Blogger

 

Do you languish in the darkness, or do you thrive in it?

This question lingers in my mind as I recall a conversation in my idle time.

“You know, the stuff you post is dark – really dark – but you’re always coming in here all cheery and happy.”

I discussed some people’s need to make me be something I am not. Instead, I learned a little more about myself.

I didn’t think anything about this statement at the time, but as I worried over it like a priceless possession, I wondered if it was possible the world was wrong and I, indeed, was correct in my darkness.

I live in the darkness, laughing at my disaster.

Dark souls are not to fear, but to love

What brought this post around was recalling a devotional my mother and I read when I was young. We were still members of the Foursquare church in Scotts Valley, and we weren’t the best of advocates to the holy life. No deep bible studies, no real praying or bonding with other believers, but we did invest in small devotionals that were to be ready daily. We read them in the morning.

They were filled with allegories and mental iconography galore.

So what made this particular devotional stand out? It contained the scientific knowledge (and commentary) on plant growth and the toxicity of continual exposure to light.

Since the beginning of my time as a God-ite, I questioned being in the light all the time. The thirst my other god-ites at the time held was rather interesting and confounding. They would shun people going through darkness, in fear the darkness would get into them like some sort of transmuted disease.

Nevertheless, here we were, reading a god-ite sponsored piece regarding the value of light and dark cycles with plants.

This is paraphrasing the work itself: “Too much time in darkness, and the plant withers. It is unable to reach any potential. Too much time in the light, however, is dangerous as well. At first, the plant thrives, but eventually it also withers and dies, burned beyond the point of recovery.”

Full article here

 

 

 


Living Openly at Safe Space Day

wp0fc6e8a2_06As much as I’ve come to love all the writers, bloggers, advocates as well as the extraordinary people I’ve met online, there is nothing as sacred as the face to face contact that I experienced this week as I travelled 6 hours from my home to attend a day conference, full of people whom I’d never met, at Safe Space Day.  Full of trepidation, I willed myself to take the risk, knowing that this vital step of “coming out” was the obvious next step in my recovery.   To say that I’m glad I attended is truly an understatement.

I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of love I witnessed.

I wasn’t prepared for the courage of each women I spoke to, cried next to or shared an auditorium with.

I wasn’t prepared to meet anyone as anxiety ridden as I, anyone else who had travelled the day prior in sheer terror to an unknown destination that called so directly to me, nor was I expecting to feel, once I’d arrived, such a kindred meeting of souls.

Souls who struggle with silence, victimization, depersonalization, isolation, mental illness, physical health issues, anger and gut wrenching sadness.

Yet, these same brave souls simultaneously expressed undying hope not only for their futures but for future generations as they sang bravely, spoke loudly, laughed spontaneously.  They offered humor, comfort and a space so special that we, as survivors of childhood sexual abuse and incest, assembled courageously to entertain and embrace the concept of living openly.  In essence, we had come to heal.

Dr. Rosenna Bakari is a survivor, educator, poet, visionary and the creator of Safe Space Day and Talking Trees Survivors. She defines living openly as this;

Living openly as a survivor means that survivors no longer deny or hide the fact that they have been sexually abused. They are willing to speak truth about the trauma of childhood sexual abuse from their own personal experience. 

This may include identifying their relationship to the perpetrator(s), age abuse started and ended, attempts or non-attempt to disclose and emotional experiences associated with the abuse.

Disclosure never has to include specific details about type of physical contact, degree of physical contact, or frequency of contact. Living openly as a survivor creates space to let go of guilt and shame and walk proudly with other survivors to move humanity forward by shedding light on an ugly issue that plagues our society. The shame of incest and the ugliness of sexual abuse must be redirected back at the perpetrators rather than remain lodged within survivors……Read more

Dr. Bakari has taken the concept of “living openly” to create a safe space for survivors of childhood sexual abuse and created a community.  A community where safety replaces fear, acceptance diminishes shame and the groundwork of true healing is established.

 

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The day was filled with oozing love and valuable information.  Speaker after speaker empowered us on political and legal issues, healing our bodies and minds, all things related to the specific and unique characteristics of a sexual abuse survivor.  For one glorious day, we tossed our shame aside as best we could because in that Safe Space, we weren’t the outcasts or the ones ostracized.  We were the ones that were honored.

The absolute icing on the cake was the evening theatrical performance of Talking Trees.  I’d felt very content and pleased with the day’s events, as many of us were, and looked forward to an entertaining nightcap with my tribe of new friends.  All I knew was that Dr. Bakari had written and directed this theatrical performance based on some of her poetry and writing. I figured we’d have a relaxing evening concluding the day’s events, maybe some poetry or personal testimony. Nope, not even close.

Again, let me say, I was not prepared for this.  This was freaking powerfully intense.  It was like a poetry slam meets The Vagina Monologues meets Roseanne Barr combined with Madea on steroids.  I was captivated and mesmerized that the performers were speaking from me, like me, as me.  And judging by the audience response, they were speaking for many of us.  I tumbled from silent and spellbound to yelling “yeah”, “testify” and other various words I didn’t know I possessed.  My feet stomped as Dr. Bakari preached poetry like I’d never heard it slammed before…she stomped and I stomped.  A young woman lurched for the door sobbing.  College students were wide eyed.  People grabbed out for each other. Sniffling was everywhere.  It was an hour of emotions ricocheting throughout the performance space.   I thanked God for intermission to go outside and collect myself as many of us did.  We stood as we shook off the emotions while mumbling repeatedly…WOW…WOW…WOW.

I left that day feeling more happy tired than I had in a long time.  I had a notebook stuffed full of business cards and e-mail addresses of new friends and notes from the day.  I’d been hugged on and loved on. I felt a certain glow of acceptance radiating within me.  I felt full.

I have no doubt that I will return next year to experience another Safe Space Day.  In the meantime, I follow the suggestions of Dr. Bakari to create my own safe space at home, in my community, for others who have had similar experiences.  I gratefully extend my hand to others because in their healing I will find more of my healing.

I invite you to visit Dr. Rosenna Bakari on:

Facebook – Talking Trees: Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Website – Talking Trees

For the complete video of this performance – YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7Bo8xBog7c

 

 


Into the mind of the abused child…into the heart of the woman she became

clouds-shadows - Version 2This is a profoundly important message from a dear sister friend.  She takes us on a journey and peeks into the mind of a child who has endured and coped through abuse, yet comes out the other side of it transformed.

If we are ever able to understand each other completely and totally, we must begin to listen to messages such as this. We read the stories, view the photos but here we hear the voice behind the story.  Joceline adds a beautiful new dimension to the totality of the experience.

Thank you Crowing Crone for capturing our truest feelings and deepest fears.  You’ve represented us, the silent children, with respect and dignity.

Click below to listen to Joceline’s recording on SoundCloud…….

into the mind of the abused child..into the heart of the woman she became……https://t.co/v2jYjF4eFB

 

 

 

 


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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go only as fast as your slowest part feels safe to go…

Nov 14 revised Go Only Cover_Reduced

 

I can’t wait to get my hands on this book.  It’s ordered and on its way.

The full title is  Go Only as Fast as Your Slowest Part Feels Safe To Go: Tales to Kindle Gentleness and Compassion For Our Exhausted Selves written by Robyn L. Posin Ph.D.  If I hadn’t had the enormous good fortune to have crossed paths with Robyn before I knew of her book, the title alone would have been enough to have grabbed my attention. My soul seeks out and especially loves words like this.  Safe. Compassion. Gentleness.

You see, I’m a slow person in the ways that most of our world deems important to be fast.  I drive slowly, like an elderly couple on a Sunday afternoon, I’m the one who is leading the parade down Main Street, holding up traffic and keeping folks from their ever-present tendency to rush.  Yes, I get honked at a lot and am okay with that.   I like the feeling of peace that travels with me now instead of the gut tightening experience of rushing from one destination to another.

My movements are slower now also as I’ve come to realize that my serenity lies within me.  No longer am I chasing the carrot dangling in front of me, going ninety miles an hour inside, always reaching, grasping for the unattainable that is out there, somewhere out there, just slightly out of my reach.  I now know and try to practice a mindful lifestyle based on the innate wisdom that resides within.

But it hasn’t always been like this.  It wasn’t until my body broke that I fell into bed and took stock of my life.  Perhaps through lack of any other choice, I acquiesed to the cruel fact that I had fractured and splintered, used and abused, pushed and prodded myself almost to death.  I quit my job, dropped out of life, accepted the AMA’s diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Immune Dysfunction and slept for an entire year.  Summer, fall, winter, spring.  When I went to bed, my daughter was a high school freshman.  By the time I began to come out of my physical fog, she had nearly completed high school.

But this conversation isn’t about my poor choices or the ramifications of traumatized children or even the physical effects of abuse.  This is about a woman, who is a part of a movement, that exists to open our eyes to the possibility of acceptance and compassion in relationship to ourselves.  It is about physical slowing and emotional stillness.  It is about granting ourselves permission to honor the parts of our psyches that are smaller, littler, slower or feeling unsafe.  And taking that recognition to a level of loving acceptance.

Even though I haven’t read her book, I’m certain the gentleness of her words will blow me away.  I’ve found that to be true when I’ve visited Robyn’s website, For the Little Ones Inside.  Her writing and art struck a chord and I felt the immediate desire to slow down, let go, relax my body, relax my soul.  My exhausted self needed her. We exchanged a few e-mails, she’s on my blogrool and I’m on hers.  Perhaps I just needed to know that beliefs such as hers really exist.  That we can, in fact, lovingly accept our smallest parts and don’t have to hide or push them away. That it’s okay to be confused, unsure, distracted, cautious.  That it’s okay to just be.

 

Suggested Link:  Words, images and tales created by Robin Posin, Ph.D. at Compassionate Ink 


So the woman who has danced out of control….

So the woman who has danced out of control, who has lost her footing and lost her feet...has a special and valuable wisdom

 

Thank you Jackie Robinson for coming to the rescue today.  This is the beauty of connection at its best.  One of us puts wise words out in the world, another friend finds them and passes them on.  And so it goes.

As I combed through my inbox, I found this jewel just waiting for me to find at the perfect moment.  From Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run with the Wolves

‘So the woman who has danced out of control, who has lost her footing and lost her feet and understands that bereft state at the end of the fairy tale, has a special and valuable wisdom.’

Wow.

I would consider it an honor and privilege to rise to this occasion that Dr. Estes illustrates.  It would be a personal challenge to take those life challenges where I’ve lost my footing and turn it into my own fairy tale. First, I have to fully grasp and accept the feelings that arise from losing one’s footing.  Each time I do, I believe it to be the last and final time that I’m faced with such challenge that completely knocks me off my feet.  Yet again and again, I’m plunged into that dark place where I must face once again the end of the fairy tale.  But now, I’m starting to understand that there is more than bleak, painful acceptance.  I can use the opportunity of the darkness to rest, spin a beautiful, silky cocoon around myself and re-invent myself, my soul and the fairy tale.

This really got me thinking hard again.  There is much dancing to be done.  Dancing with wild abandon.  Dancing out of control.

I would encourage you to visit Jackie’s site, A Heart’s Whisper and especially Sacred Circle Retreats.  These women, among others, in person and online have kept me afloat during those “bereft” times.

They dance with me out of control.

 


My writing life with a coach…

pathThe timing for my decision to hire a writing coach couldn’t have been better.  Several months into this joint project between myself and my coach has left me almost delirious with purpose.

Earlier this winter, I had the good fortune to read a post from Sarah Potter’s blog featuring a concept called Novel Writing Winter.  She explained her kinder and gentler approach to working on her book using the entire winter season to snuggle up and write.  I thought it was so creative, especially for those of us who are hunkered down anyway, facing those bleary grey winter days.  I’d already flunked out of NaNoWriMo and the prospect of having a writing buddy, a pal across the pond in the UK (in her case) sounded delightful.  I pictured many afternoons with an imaginary tea party with Sarah and friends chatting about our projects and realized it was exactly the support that I needed.

To that point, I had been writing.  I had been discovering memories, painstakingly putting them into form on a blog, mostly short and random stories.  It was fulfilling to a point but knew I had a larger purpose for the experience that I had gone through of abuse, childhood violence and recovery.  I wanted this story to be a book but hadn’t a clue of where to go from there.

I quickly joined up with Sarah and friends, put her badge on my blog and sat down with my stories.  Since I was already feeling encouraged by this support, I thought, why not take it to the next level?  The National Association of Memoir Writers, a group that I had belonged to for a year or so, was offering a class on memoir writing given by two women who I have come to love and respect.  Linda Joy Myers, who started NAMW, and Brooke Warner of Warner Coaching, were giving a 4-week introductory class through their Write Your Memoir in Six Months site.  It seemed like a perfect place to start in my quest to find out more and provide my story with some structure.

Yes, I said structure.  The one aspect of this process that was sorely lacking attention.  You see, I love the creative flow, the zone where I’m lost in my mind and pouring out words on the keyboard.  The romantic aspect of writing appeals so greatly to me.  Sitting in the library, books all around me, dog curled up by my side complete with a steaming cup of tea.  I have a good laugh at myself when I realize I’ve cultivated this quirky, dressed in black, elusive artist persona.  Oh, you should see me poised at the window wistfully looking out at the bleary winter sky with the tormented gaze of Virginia Wolff. I seriously have this part down.  I enjoy it so much that to date, it was the only part that was well developed.  But there is a practical, methodical aspect to writing that I hadn’t embraced yet and it seemed its time had come.  These stories needed structure, a place to belong, a linear home.

What I learned, during the 4 week course, was invaluable.  I was able to shift my brain over to the left a bit and look at the “bones” of my book, how I wanted it be outlined, what I wanted it to say.  Both Brooke and Linda are crackerjack at gently and persistently nudging us as writers, to look at the big picture and to work effectively and efficiently toward that goal.  I’m thinking I’ve probably shaved off years of aimless window gazing by finally choosing Brooke from Warner Coaching to be my writing coach.

Now, here’s my disclaimer.  I didn’t feel confident or even competent enough in the beginning to justify the money to hire a writing coach.  In fact, I was a real Nervous Nelly about it.  I had a few days of the inner critic snickering, “You think you’re good enough for this?”  “She works with professionals in the publishing industry, not wannabe window-gazing writers!”  “Just keep this dark, miserable writing to yourself, no one will want to read it!”

So, my critic and I had a long chat and I won. Ha. Through this conversation, I pinpointed exactly what I wanted.  In my heart, the reason I started this memoir in the first place, was to give the small child I once was a voice.  She had endured so much pain yet remained stoic and strong for a lifetime, that it was her time to speak.  I wanted more than anything to tell her story and mine and have it help someone along the way.  I just know that there are women, children, men and boys living everyday lives, struggling with secrets and the trauma of abuse.  I want to set them free.

I hired Brooke and what I’ve learned so far is just perfect.  She keeps me focused on the outline, the structure, the message, my voice.  These are not easy tasks for someone like me.  Traumatized children grow up into traumatized adults who don’t come by linear thinking easily.  We gravitate toward chaos.  And because of this special challenge, I needed a coach who would get this.

Why I chose to work with a writing coach, specifically Brooke….

  • I needed accountability.  When we have deadlines, we work toward them.  I enjoy having assignments with specific due dates, it keeps me motivated and focused.
  • Early on, I realized that I needed to work with a woman.  Trust is such a big issue with me and I work better with women, I trust them more.  That’s a usual conclusion for abused women and one that I honored with this decision.
  • Brooke has so much professional experience and is wildly qualified to coach writing.  As the former editor of Seal Press, Brooke has worked with hundreds of authors taking their writing to published works.
  • Besides her professional experience, I liked the titles that Seal Press published.  I gravitate toward that genre, it really spoke to me.
  • She’s really nice.  Each suggestion is made with a professional grace combined with warmth and concern for my project.  I feel she respects me, my work and my goals.

After 4 sessions, I can feel a relationship forming and my trust in myself as a person and a writer is growing.  This is a monumentally huge accomplishment for a child of trauma, trust is usually very elusive. So, I must take a moment to thank all the wonderful women who so serendipitously have graced my life.  I consider myself so fortunate to have them placed in my path for me to stumble across, sometimes even tripping.  It’s just a great time to be Little L.


More than 5 things to do if you’re gonna be a writer….

Thank youSeveral years ago, while in the shower I had the compelling epiphany to write a memoir.  A book based on my life’s story; the traumas, the journey, the healing.   I would lay out a quilt, steep some tea and write myself whole again.  Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it?

That epiphany took form slowly by becoming a few stories, then a blog, followed by a few timid submissions and a Facebook page.  I’ve lovingly cared and developed my craft by doing things like learning what the heck it means to increase your social media presence and tackling Twitter.

Well, today I just want to scream.  No beauty here!  What the hell was I thinking when I started a monumental project like writing a book?  Really, my life story?  What do I know about writing and publishing?  Actually, more than I think when I finally simmer down and let this pass.

Here’s my not so tidy list of things that have done to help move this project along…

  1.  Realize that any movement is good.  Taking a formless idea and transforming it into a tangible, readable book or story is a huge undertaking that needs to be done in small manageable steps.  The more support you have for this, the better.
  2. Read.  Especially authors whose stories resonate with your story and even more so, the authors whose framework and storylines appeal to you.
  3. Do something to identify yourself as a writer.  I made a Facebook page, joined the National Association of Memoir Writers and She Writes.  All of these actions add energy and identification to your role as a writer and author.
  4. If you don’t have any formal training in writing, that’s okay.  Teach yourself.  We live in the information age graced with the internet and libraries for information we need to hold in our hands.  Use both extensively.
  5. Make the time to write.  Find the time to write.  Tell your family to make dinner.  Leave your phone off.  Write seemingly meaningless stuff or post on other people’s blog but keep the flow going.   This is exactly what I’m doing at this particular moment because I can’t seem to write on my book so I’m thrusting my frustrations out on this blog post.
  6. Align yourself with virtual writing projects like NaNoWriMo and Novel Writing Winter.  These keep you in touch with others who are waging The War of Art.
  7. Give yourself permission to scream.  Its cathartic but make sure you don’t scare the children or the dogs.

These last weeks have really sucked.  I don’t feel my creative flow and my muse has headed for the hills. I lost several days to a sick dog and ultimately a dog that passed away.  Everyone should be given numerous sick days for when you lose a beloved animal friend.

My therapist lost her father so there’s no group this week.   I gave her my condolesences and hid my neediness for wishing I could be with my pals tonight.  A friend lost her father so there’s more casseroles to make and more stuff eating my time from my book.  My husband had to leave town for work and I needed to stay behind with the sick dog.

Things happen.  Schedules change.  People and animals die.  Support isn’t there like you had planned.

Big deal….go scream, get the chocolate then sit down and write.


mommy heart

Handed to me fresh and gooey, she stole my heart instantly.

I wasn’t prepared for the impact of pure love when I looked at those eyes, wide open and brown as dark chocolate.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of her, she was so perfect, so beautiful that I almost felt frightened as she stared directly through my soul.  She never cried, she just watched, taking it all in like the old soul that she was.  In fact, we all remarked that we didn’t  know what her cry sounded like until days later.  Since I had traded the option of pain relief and hospital birth for the autonomy and gentleness of a home birth, I never had to deal with someone whisking her from me until I was good and ready to put her down, which didn’t happen for days.  Our first year is hazy as we slept, nursed endlessly and stayed swaddled to each other to soothe her colic and to ease my anxiety that I must be doing something wrong.

The beautiful child eventually found her footing and released my breast at the exact perfect time for her.  I never pushed her away. Never.  My body and soul was there for her as long as she needed me.  It couldn’t have been any other way.  It was absolutely futile to resist my role as her mother, it called to me so strongly like a destiny that I had been waiting for my entire life.  And I know now, that up until that point, I had never experienced a love like that.  Blinding, pure, knock me off my feet love for this little 6-pound being.  Everything that I had felt for my parents, friends and other loved ones didn’t hold a candle to this.  For the first time, I felt the enormous power of my emotions seize my being.  I knew that I could have lifted a car from this child or flat out murdered anyone who attempted to harm her without a blink of the eye.  I felt that certainty and a distinction that I not experienced prior.

If it was even possible, our life together just got sweeter and sweeter.   We walked and sang and looked at stars.  We caught lightening bugs and set them free in our bedroom at night.  We played late into the summer nights and then went for ice cream. Sleepily, she would crawl onto my lap, wrapping around me murmuring “I love you mommy heart”, her pet name for me when she was especially full of love.

Over the years, I stayed close as she watched other children for endless hours before venturing toward them.  She was reserved and shy.  It was to be respected and always on her time frame. Always.

She became a little girl, then a young woman.  The eye rolling started and the physical touch disappeared.  It hurt.  But it was necessary.  It had to be done. One couldn’t love this intensely and wholly without having the separation be of epic proportion.  So she did what she needed to do at exactly the time that she needed.  She hugged her friends, then her boyfriends.  It was reserved for them now and I made do.

Leaving for college was a snap for her.  Her independent wings had sprouted so long ago that she simply just took off.  Her rock solid foundation of love made it easy for her to leap.  It was never about me, she did exactly what she needed to do at that moment.  She needed to fly.  And I needed to cheer her on.

We approached the deadline of her moving cross country with mixed emotions. She would be leaving her midwestern roots and heading toward the ocean and a new life.  Mostly we occupied ourselves by planning and making lists of necessary items to purchase or pack.  I kept it light and wouldn’t under any circumstances let her see my sadness, only the excitement.  I knew firsthand what a burden it could be to watch a parent crumble as a child left home.  My mother waved bravely as I pulled out of the driveway headed for Texas, post college and headstrong.  It was my mistake to look back.  She sank to her knees sobbing with her head in her hands.  I’ve carried that forever.

My daughter and I were both methodically and consciously trying to let go of each other, coping as best we could,  trying on for size the separation that was inevitable.  We had bonded so completely that it would be difficult to pull this off but we still needed to try.  Maybe that’s why she chose to go so far away.  Maybe she needed the distance to see where she started and I left off.  It made sense.  It was always about her time frame.  She always got to choose what worked best for her.

A few days before she left, I awoke to her sleeping in my bed beside me.  My husband had already left for work and I mistakenly thought the dog had taken his place, but it was her.  A full grown woman replaced the tiny 6 pound miracle that graced my life a mere 25 years before.  We snuggled but not too close, mostly letting the dog absorb our affection, tempering the emotion.  I knew she needed some mother comfort and so did she.  But we didn’t speak of it.  We didn’t have to.

The Saturday morning she left was crisp and clear, a day before her 25th birthday.  The morning air brought that snapshot frozen in time flooding back.  It was the same weather the day of her birth.  It felt  cyclical and right.  We busied ourselves with packing her car then fussed some more and kissed all the dogs and took photos and put off the moment when we had to say goodbye. It was finally upon us.

I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of her hug.  She’d spent over a decade avoiding touching or sometimes barely acknowledging me and the sheer impact of her propelling sobbing body at mine literally knocked me off balance.  My baby.  She’s back.  Pressed up against my heart… how good it felt to hold her again.  I immediately felt guilty for loving the embrace at the expense of her unleashed emotion.

I reassured her that her home was there always, waiting if she needed it.  I held her until she pulled away then came back for one more embrace.  I inhaled her sweet essence and let her cry.  Then I let her pull away from me.  It was always about her. She let go when she was ready and I made do.


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