Archive | January, 2012

Mingle in the Mud

Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

I am relatively new to the world of blogging.  One of the reasons I circumvented it for so long and wrote only for myself to see (and my dog to listen to) was because I wasn’t especially enamoured with the word ‘blog’.

It’s not a pretty word. Remove the ‘L’ and you are wading in a swampy marsh, waste up in mud and slime.

Despite my dislike, I squelched ahead.  I pulled on the wellie boots I haven’t worn since leaving England, and I entered the mire. Surprise, surprise. Suddenly writing didn’t feel so lonely.  I was surrounded by ‘Bloggers’!  All of us making our own journeys through sludge in the hopes of delivering something special.  Something sparkly.  A shiny gem that can be rubbed so clean that it will become lucid in the hands of the reader.

There are a lot of us – millions in fact.  Some days I am so overwhelmed by how very overcrowded this bog of blogs is that I contemplate giving up in order to step back on the sidelines and watch instead. I haven’t been at it for long. Surely no one would notice me slink away? Life would feel safer – less chance of getting roughly elbowed in the ribs by an overenthusiastic daily poster with a rugged thirst for adjectives.

But I am choosing to mingle in the mud.

There are times for spectating and times for doing and this is my time for doing.  So instead of being intimidated by my fellow explorers, instead of feeling threatened by their band of followers, I feel encouraged by their tenacity instead.  I feel enlivened by the connection and the surprising sense of community I have never before associated with the quiet hum of my computer screen. And I feel deeply moved by the courageous recollections of my readers, learning how to Risk It, offering up their stories filled with spectrums of colour, inspiring me by example.  And I am reminded why I began this in the first place. Write To Be You.

Not even the most experienced writers nor the most seasoned bloggers will produce gems week after week. If it weren’t for the muddy, knobbly rocks, we would never a truly appreciate the crystals when they appear. Glinting in our palms. Urging us to get our hands mucky and keep sifting for more.

Your turn now! Think of a time when you opted out because you felt crowded out? Have you ever stopped yourself before starting, for fear of being inadequate or not being able to compare? Perhaps you set a goal after reading Round and Round We Go but you’ve yet to mobilise?

OR do you recall something you began but gave up too soon? Do you want to return to it?  Take a moment to suspend judgment and simply reflect on why you gave up.

Find your notebook.  Choose your pen and start writing.  Write for ten minutes. I invite you to share. Anything. The earthy pebbles and the shiny shells – both valuable in their own ways.  I’m here, mingling in the mud, waiting patiently to collect them all…
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Round and Round We Go

When I began studying to be a psychotherapist, I was overwhelmed with new theory and information constantly. I was often confused. Bewildered. I doubted my intelligence on a weekly basis.

I made a friend. A lovely friend. And every week I told my friend:

“I’m not going to continue.  It’s too hard to juggle studying and the kids.  I’ll never truly understand.  I fall asleep while I’m reading. I won’t see this through. I don’t want to be a psychotherapist anyway.  Do I?  Do I?”

My friend didn’t answer my question.  She was a good listener. A great listener in fact. She listened to me threatening to quit almost every single week.  And there were many weeks. And she listened as I stood up in front of a couple of hundred people at our graduation and thanked her for listening.

One of the many things I learned that threw my brain into the tumble dryer was the Gestalt Cycle of Experience. It’s complicated. Until you simplify it. I drew a silly picture to simplify it (that works for me).

Each of us everyday are subjected to gestalts – patterns of repeat behaviour that follow a circular path. We begin by having a sensation; we become aware of the sensation; we decide to do something about it and mobilise; we move actively towards what we want; we make contact; we are satisfied (hopefully); we withdraw and move into the fertile void where we wait for the next sensation to make an appearance.  Even simpler?  I’m sitting at my computer; my tummy growls; I decide to go to the kitchen; I go to the kitchen; I determine the whereabouts of a Trader Joes salted caramel butter cookie; I eat it; I’m content (if I stop at one); I walk away.

The law of the cycle is that it repeats constantly in small ways (my cookie craving) and in much larger ways:

What do I want to do with my life?
Can I set a goal and reach it?
Will I write today?
Can I improve my relationships?
Will I start?
Can I finish?

Human beings are brilliantly skilled at finding ways to interrupt the cycle and stop the flow.

Think of The Fertile Void as the chill out lounge for the senses – lava lamps, bean bags, sweet burning incense. You get the picture. It’s the space where you remain receptive and open to inspiration. But some of us chill out for far too long and end up becoming dazed and spacey or so numb that the sensations are difficult to locate.

Then there are those who find it impossible to get past awareness, always aching with want but never mobilising into action.

Others are buzzing around with a manic energy, unable to make the contact they need.

Still others establish the contact, but then rush on frantically to the next moment, avoiding the opportunity to feel satisfied.

There are so many ways to stop the flow.

Where does your cycle get interrupted?  Think about the mini gestalts as well as the broader ones.  Play with the concept.  Draw your own diagram.  Now think of something you would like to achieve.

Write it down. Naming it here will be further proof that you are dedicated to reaching it.

It might be something that you can achieve in an hour, a day, a week, or a year. Whatever it is, as time ticks on, notice where and how you get blocked. What keeps you from moving fluidly through? Are you contributing to the interruption? Can you get back on track?

Writing about it will help you to pin it down and keep things rolling.

Round and round we go.

To all the readers and writers who contributed to ‘That Song’ thank you for being open to sharing your moments and memories.  We have created our own soundtrack of details!  Keep them coming and please keep contributing…

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Video

That Song

We’ve all been there.  A song comes on the radio and you are transported somewhere immediately.  Some other point in time.  Another place in your life directly connected to ‘that song’.  The memory is visceral and vivid.

You might not recall the details of a conversation you had with someone an hour ago, but when you hear ‘that song’, you not only remember every single lyric, every arc in the melody, but you also recall the very real emotions that accompanied them as well.

Yesterday, this for me was ‘that song’

Classic 80s.  Took me right back to being with my best friend K.E.L. our ears pressed against my older sister’s bedroom door as she played this song on her cassette player over and over again.  She was 16 and had a boy in her room. A cute boy.  We were not sixteen and we were dying to know what it felt like to be in her shoes.  I was wearing white shorts and a baggy yellow tank top with the words RELAX emblazoned in black letters on the front. My long hair was pulled into a high ponytail with bangs/fringe back combed meticulously, sprouting forth like a tangled fountain.  K.E.L. had silky brown hair cut in a bob, braces, scuffed keds and the magical ability to make me laugh so hard I thought I would pee in my pants.  The tiles in the bathroom I shared with my sister were teal green and some of them had colourful exotic fish embossed onto them – decor inherited from the previous owner.  My lipstick was opalescent pink.  I was filled with curiosity and envy. My sister’s perfume was Anais Anais, a sickly sweet fragrance with pale, soft petaled flowers adorning the bottle.

Details.  They came tumbling at me avalanche style the moment I heard ‘that song’.

It’s all in the details.

What is ‘that song’ for you?  Have you heard it recently? Can you find it and listen to it.  Open your mind and heart up to all the particulars of the time it takes you to.  Write down the details.  The more the better.  No matter how trivial.  Keep your pen moving as you take a journey in your time machine.  Listen to it one more time.  You might be surprised at what else comes back to you.

Write for at least ten minutes.  Longer if you wish.

Bon voyage!

 

Ready, Steady, Write # 2

Found objects are wonderful springboards for inspiration.  I stumbled across this while browsing.  Pick up your pen.

Open your notebook.  Commit to writing at least one page.  Tell this story.

Monday is full of possibility…

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Shifting the Balance

I have a skin condition called Vitilgo.  Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder that causes pigment to disappear.  My body is scattered with randomly shaped patches and spots that have lost all colour.  I’ve named them my islands of white.  Thousands of people are living with the condition in varying degrees.  Although it is purely cosmetic with no other sinister symptoms, Vitiligo can be deeply debilitating. Self esteem can disappear along with the pigment, leaving many people who have the condition feeling odd, unusual, self conscious – sadly uncomfortable in their ever shifting skin.


Like countless others, people with Vitiligo have to confront on a daily basis an aspect of themselves that they might wish to be different.  Plenty of us wrangle with our perceived flaws, spending precious time daydreaming, “If only I didn’t have_____ ” Fill in the blank. It is especially challenging in a media driven society that is intent on disseminating such a limited and superficial vision of beauty.

We are all of course multi dimensional.  But defaulting to defining ourselves by one narrow element is a trap that can easily snare even the most self aware.

Think on aspect of yourself that you are dissatisfied with or that you try to wish away.  It can be a physical feature, a medical condition or a personality trait.  Write in detail about that aspect  of yourself.  Spend time reflecting on how it has affected your life.  Are you self conscious?  Does it stop you from moving forward? Are you worried about other people’s judgment?  

Now think of an aspect of yourself that you feel good about.  A strength.  A quality or feature you have been complimented on and feel proud of.  How has it benefited you? Give this part equal time and attention.  Be specific. 

If we put all our weight constantly onto only one leg, we will most probably begin to feel a nagging ache in our hip.  We will be off balance.  Not unlike giving constant attention to negative aspects of ourselves, while disregarding our strengths and skills.  Something, somewhere inside of us will suffer.

Shift the balance. Centre yourself.


Write for at least five minutes on both topics, remaining aware of which topic wants more of your attention.Go…

After you’ve written, if you’re interested to hear me talking to Nathalie from
VITILIGO FRIENDS about living with the condition and using writing as a tool, you can listen HERE

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The Notebook

Don’t get your hopes up.  This is not a prompt to write about Ryan Gosling.  But if you feel you absolutely must – knock yourself out.  I am not in the business of holding people back!  I am in the business of encouraging growth.  Growth begins with a seed. A seed needs a container.  The container needs to be carefully selected so it feels just right.

The Notebook.

When I was a girl and onwards into adulthood, I always had a drawer full of notebooks.  With the best intentions, I would write conscientiously in any one of those said notebooks for a week.  Or two.  Sometimes more.  And then I would drift on to a newer notebook. A cooler notebook. A prettier one.  I was extremely fickle when it came to stationary.  I just couldn’t commit, and that was long before the days of endlessly upgrading an i-phone.

If you are following the blog, you hopefully have already pondered on your commitments for the year.  Have you committed to writing?  Once a week?  Twice a week?  Every day?  Set the bar where you can reach it, and if you haven’t yet – choose a notebook.  Even if you plan to write on the computer, I urge you to choose a notebook.  And stick with it.  Carry it with you if you can.  Tie it with a string or a ribbon or a piece of wool.  Protect it.  Fold images into its pages – torn scraps – words or pictures that catch you.  Write in it.  Doodle in it.  Smell the paper.  It will gradually and satisfyingly fill up.  And you will grow…

Can you remember a notebook you had as a child? A diary? A journal? What did it look like? Describe the cover. Where did it come from? Was it a gift or did you choose it? What did you write in it?

If you can’t recall, write from here: “I am a notebook, open my pages and you will find…”

Write for at least ten minutes. Go…

If you are following Write To Be You and have jumped in and started writing, I would love to hear your comments. If you’re feeling very courageous, share an excerpt.  I promise you it will inspire others to pick op their pens!

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Risk It

Two days ago I released the website and the blog into the wider world. It’s strange to know that now I’m not the only one reading these posts! I have had a lot of love and encouragement flying my way as a result, and I am extremely grateful.

Attempting anything new is always a risk. We risk being vulnerable. Feeling exposed. We risk getting it ‘wrong’ and feeling uncomfortable, or at worst having to battle the dreaded, loathsome enemy – shame.

Shame is a such a visceral, pervasive emotion.  It can appear in an instant, usually when we find ourselves at the mercy of someone else’s reaction. It gets us in the gut. Coats us in a slimy film. It has the power to diminish us in seconds. In a blink we can transform from a functioning grown-up into a very small person longing to be smaller, or even more effective – invisible.

Shame is often rooted in our ancient histories (early school experiences; mocking reactions from our peer group or adults; in the most serious cases – abuse) but a present day reminder can trigger instant recall, and we end up tangled in a destructive loop.  Some people go to great lengths to avoid ever being in that position again, and their lives shrink considerably as a result.

I have never been a natural risk taker. You won’t find me bungee jumping or balancing on a narrow edge.  As a child, I was even scared to walk down a steep hill. I was afraid of being hurt or looking like a fool. Some of us just are.  But I am learning to find alternate ways to bungee jump. I am risking breaking the loop in order to try things out.  I am dipping my toes into waters I previously judged far too icey. The rewards, as I am discovering, are golden.  I’m becoming more resiliant and that feels like warm relief. It is not a simple process. Many of us are very entrenched in the habits and ways of being that we have constructed to keep us feeling protected and safe. But ironically, many of us also feel imprisoned by those same security measures. It takes time to bend the bars.

Begin here. Think about an experience where you felt overcome with shame. How did you react?  What were you left with after it had all unfolded?  Stay with the feelings. Be specific. Now write a letter to the people or person who you feel contributed to that shame response in you.  Don’t hold back. Write in BIG BOLD LETTERS. Allow your words to SHOUT.  Tell your truth.  When you are finished – rip it up, or better yet – put it in an envelope (if you still have one!)  Write whatever you wish to on the front, and take it to a post/mail box and slip it through the slot.  Or leave it on a table at Starbucks. Or propped in a tree branch. Or on the bus. Or on a bench.

Just let it go…

Notice how you feel as you walk away.

Sometimes we need a grand gesture to make a start.  Risk it…

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Wobbly Bridge

Stepping into a new year can bring up a myriad of feelings.  Hope, uncertainty, fear, excitement, anxiety – to name a few.  We navigate subtle transitions constantly on a daily basis, sometimes without even being aware of them. But when faced with a bigger, bolder step forward, a hard decision; a fresh commitment; a change we didn’t choose; a change we did choose; a fear we need to confront – I often picture a wobbly bridge.  Imagine you are standing on one side of that bridge, or have even taken the first few steps forward.

What does the world look like from where you are?

What can you hear and smell?  Are you hundreds of feet up in the air or closer to the ground?  Is there water below you or land?

Stay connected to your thoughts and feelings about the prospective journey. What might be waiting on the other side?  Most importantly – what help or support might you enlist to help you make it across?  Be specific.

If you’re feeling courageous and simply want to run forward – slow down and appreciate the scenery; linger in your fearlessness; notice how you move…

Now pick up a pen or find a keyboard and write… for at least ten minutes.  There is plenty of room to expand on this exercise.  If you want – keep going.  Write about what it feels like to reach the halfway point.  Details. Tell the story of what you discover on the other side. Go…

A warm welcome if you have just arrived here – please look at my previous few posts, all intended to encourage you to write regularly, make meaning, and find connection through your words.  I would love it if you considered sharing your work and making comments. Please pass the site on – let’s grow this community!

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