Archive | April, 2012

Spontaneous Acts of Dancing

When was the last time that you did something spontaneous? I mean REALLY spontaneous. Not the variety that involves choosing a different shampoo from the one you’ve been loyal to for the last year. I mean the – oh my god I can’t believe I just did that but it felt SO good type of spontaneous. I mean the cartwheeling, backflipping, jumping jacking, pirouetting, scissor kicking kind?

I wonder what your answer is.

Here’s mine.

“I don’t remember…”

But it gets worse. In reality my ‘memory loss’ is covering up my shame. Shame for having lived much of my life ‘flatly’. Shame for having actively avoided spontaneity in lieu of staying safe, keeping control, walking only on very solid ground instead of ever grabbing the bar of a trapeze.

I have angled myself into daring shapes over the last decade trying to manoeuvre change. I’ve jostled my way to the front row at concerts. I’ve jumped into dark chilly lakes. I learnt to ski (badly) in my thirties. I started writing this blog and baring some of my soul.

But old habits die hard not fast, and shame, as I’ve written about before, is pervasive and contaminating. It sticks like tar. It stinks. Even if you work overtime attempting to scrub it off, it can remain powerful, preventing change by a casting a spell of acute self consciousness.

It’s tough to lose a label and push yourself to become more dimensional. 

I was without doubt a ‘sensible’ child. I was introverted and hushed. Like the icing on the cake of the stereotype, I wore thick lensed glasses and liked to bury my nose in a book. These were all essential aspects of me, but as I grew, I craved expansion. ‘Sensible’ is not an easy image to abandon. People begin to define you by your ‘image’ and then you somehow begin to live out their expectations.

As a teenager there was another ‘me’ living somewhere on an alternate earth. She was less uptight. She talked with her hands, laughed with her head in the air and danced with boys.  She was comfortably confident. But she was also a bit mean. She taunted me when I bought funky pink stilettos from Camden Market. She told me, “You’re not the kind of girl who wears those kind of shoes.” And people around me confirmed that with the mocking arch in their eyebrows. And I felt embarrassed. So I put the shoes away. But every time I opened my cupboard there they were. Pointing their toes at me. Accusing me of caving in. Branding me as inhibited.

Last week my best friend K.E.L. called me to tell me she was going to a fundraiser at her children’s school. The theme was the 80s.

“What are you wearing?!” I asked her.
“I’m not dressing up. I don’t have anything to wear,” she replied. Flatly.

Five hours later her husband sent me a picture from his phone. It was K.E.L. – her hair in an awesome side ponytail, rocking a black blazer with shoulder pads any NFL player would covet. She was on the stage with the band, hands waving in the in the air, shaking it like a polaroid picture.

“She did it!” I thought. She somersaulted through the flatness. She grabbed the trapeze bar. She wore the pink stilettos.

So I’m thanking K.E.L. for the inspiring reminder. We all need a nudge every once in a while.

I bet those shoes still fit me.

It’s my turn next.

You coming?

Write about spontaneity. When were you last spontaneous? What does spontaneous look like to you? It comes in an array of colours – not just pink! Do you want more or less of it in your life? Practice spontaneity and share in the comments!

 

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Ready, Steady, Write # 12

 

There
is
Always
A
Story


Tell it. In as many or as few lines as you choose. Share in the comments. Dock your words. Here…
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Get It Write

“I’m interested in doing your workshop but the idea of writing intimidates me…” 

I’ve heard this often. It seems the very act of picking up a pen and relaying thoughts and feelings can become burly & threatening, like a school bully who syphons power by frightening others. Sadly, very often that ‘bully’ has been frightened themselves and when they can access help or understanding, there is the potential to deactivate the charge.

So how do we make sense of why the idea of writing is scaring so many people?

Here lies my answer. For many years, traditional western education has hijacked writing and twisted it into something unnecessarily menacing. Something that needs to be done ‘correctly’. Something that will result in a mark or grade that is judged by an outsider – a source of authority. This leaves very little room to embrace the wayward and unruly workings of our human minds. This leaves absolutely no room to celebrate unconventional structures such as:

Outside. Bounce. Bounce. That ball doesn’t never ever stop. STOP. bounce. Bounce.  In my brain. Slam dunking my words away from the train of thought I am riding. With my head out the window. Like a dog. Sniffing. Ears flapping, listening. Absorbing worlds of. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

In recent years the foundations have been shifting, but in 1979 that wouldn’t have earned me an ‘A’ anywhere, especially not in England. In my early education, creativity was shackled with strict limitations.  Apparently we were only allowed to light up the right side of our brains (the creative centre) in nursery school or art class. Even then I have recollections of the teacher removing the brush from my hand and painting over my canvas, in a concerted effort to show me how to ‘improve’.

It’s not a shocker that twenty or thirty years later many people cower from the prospect of trying something just for the hell of it. Letting words out of the enclosure. Giving sentences permission to roam lawlessly. To soar high. To float gently.

In reality, it is not the act of writing that scares us but the external judge, who currently occupies our inner landscapes, ruling the domain with unmerciful glee.

What do I say to those prospective participants – the ones who are drawn towards the workshops but who feel intimidated?

Face the bully! 
Straighten your shoulders! 
Stick your tongue out! 
Hold up a shameless finger and kick the gate open!

There are acres of gorgeous ground to cover. Wasted wooly woodlands filled with creative possibility. Magical truth tunnels. Whispering story trees. And the written word is waiting to lead you on your own guided tour.

So don’t write to please ‘them’ – they have their own issues to tackle. Don’t try and get it ‘right’ because ‘right’ is a moveable feast.

The solution is delightfully simple.
You guessed it… Write To Be You.

Start here! Start Now! Share a spontaneous response to this post. Can be anything… a personal account, a fictional story, a tangled net of words. Share anonymously if that feels safer. Work up to declaring your name. Reinvent or reconnect. Find freedom through your words…

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Ready, Steady, Write # 11

Illustration by Sarajo Frieden

Forge a relationship
With this image
Tell us a story
Write
About
It
Share
The writing
love

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The Games We Played

Growing up in the 70’s & 8o’s we always had one cupboard stuffed with board games. Piled up boxes splitting at the corners and bulging at the seams because the components had been hurriedly shoved inside at the close of the previous encounter. There was no replicating that first fresh glimpse of a new board game… everything sitting pristinely in its own compartment… obediently claiming a space.

The plastic playing pieces separated from the dice next to the the cards immaculately ordered with satisfying straight edges next to the board folded perfectly at the crease sitting neatly on top of the marbles or the straws or the money arranged by amount and colour or the spinner with the arrow still firmly intact.

After that very first ‘opening’ inevitable packaging chaos ensued. It didn’t matter how hard you tried… things would never fit back into that box in quite the same way ever again.

But that was all part of the fun.

Little did I know that the many hours wiled away playing those games were prepping me for my uncertain future as an adult.

TWISTER – awkward entanglements.

MONOPLOY- property dilemmas (should we or shouldn’t we?) and the terrifying white envelopes containing those first bills (Really? I have NO money in the bank? Didn’t I just pass GO??)

CLUEDO (CLUE in the USA) – the toxicity of gossip and the constant speculation about the lives of others, “Do you really think Miss Scarlet did it in the kitchen with the led pipe? Just last week we were hanging out in the library with Professor Plum and she was going on and on about the candlestick. Who knew?!”

OPERATION – the confirmation of my lack of hand/eye co-ordination and my leaning towards psychotherapy. All I really wanted was to ask that poor, naked guy, “So tell me, how do you feel about this relentless bodily intrusion?”

MASTERMIND –  how to communicate with people who like to keep things hidden.

FRUSTRATION (TROUBLE in the USA) – the reminder that  life is just one great big pop-o-matic dome and you can waste forever wishing for a 6. Even so… your only choice is to keep on popping.

CONNECT FOUR – the satisfaction when things fall into place.

And finally KER PLUNK – my most beloved game. Ker Plunk taught me that sometimes you just have to take a risk. Pull that straw. Hold your breath.

And wait to hear the marbles…

What memories do you have of board games you played as a child? Write for ten minutes. Roll the dice and see what arrives… share in the comments!

 

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Ready, Steady, Write # 10

Photograph by Sam Green 2012

Tell
This
Story
Find 
Words
In 
The
Fog
Share your findings below…                                                                    

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A Question In The Air

I’m back. Extrordianry how disconnecting for a week can leave you feeling so much more connected.

My computer is still acting skittish though. Maybe he doesn’t trust me now. Lilly, my dog, is behaving a bit oddly as well. I’ve always heard that dogs have no memory and live like mindful monks – only in the moment.  But I’m not so sure.  I think Lilly remembers being left behind.  Her  wistful expression tells me there is a question in the air.

“Will you leave me again?”

We bank memories. Store them in secret hiding places. Fill the pockets of our psyches with fistfuls of experiences. Sometimes they get buried because there are so many being gathered and crammed into tight spaces. Spines. Temples. Guts. Muscles. We hold memories in our bodies and they determine our maps.

Each of us becomes an atlas… alive with continents of feeling and oceans of recollection.

When I was in Mexico I discovered a plant by the name of Mimosa Pudica. It has a delicate fern like leaf, not dissimilar to many other plants, the difference being this plant appears to have a memory.  When you touch it, even lightly, the leaves tilt up and inwards, like finger tips meeting in prayer. Don’t hurt me.  The mimosa is programmed to protect itself. Pudica in Latin means “shy, shrinking or bashful”. Apparently the Mimosa is also referred to as The Sensitive Plant or the Touch Me Not.

Isn’t that wonderfully appropriate?

Sensitivity is often regarded in our society as a weakness.

“Oh… he/she is soooo sensitive…” as if the word itself is a tender spot that turns a tongue painfully pink when spoken.

On the contrary, I truly believe that sensitivity is a blessing. But for those of us with the label it can also be cumbersome. Like the Mimosa plant it might result in excessive self preservation.  A closing up too soon. A touch me not mentality, when in truth we are longing to be touched. Somewhere, deep down, we hear the echoes of distress. We remember stings and burns and bites, and we employ all our energies to prevent repeat performances.

I was entranced by the Mimosa plant.  I kept brushing against the leaves. I kept watching them close.  I kept imagining that somehow I could entice this organism to trust again.  To remain receptive. I didn’t. Eventually I wandered back to the beach, with a new resolve. I can’t alter the DNA of the Mimosa, which has clearly evolved with a greater purpose, but I can continue to lightly retrace my own steps.

Explore the contours of my memory map, through writing and reflecting.

And in doing so, recognise the times I flinch and wilt, anticipating the same hurtful outcome, instead of remaining open and inviting in a fresh response.

Write ten lines beginning every line with the words “I remember…”  Stay aware of the memories that trigger you to curl inwards. Create a poem of floating moments.  If you want more… zoom in on one of those memories and flesh it out. Write for ten more minutes. Be brave. Share in the comments. I’m listening…

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