Archive | December, 2012

A Small Window

When I first started writing ‘Playing Along’ I did so as an antidote to the heaviness of my ‘other’ work. I had recently completed my masters degree in psychotherapy and I was working with individual clients – adults and children – all with a range of emotional hurdles and difficulties. I saw a six year old child for a year who was a ‘selective mute’. He had stopped talking in public having lost his mother at an early age when his language was first developing. I worked with that child for a year and he never said one word to me. But he always smiled, and we played together, and we drew together, and by the end of the therapy, he was writing pages and pages of story – conveying his pain and confusion through imagination – engaging with me in the only way he knew how.

I saw children whose parents had all but abandoned them, adults who were wracked with phobias, women who had suffered sexual abuse. The work was extremely rewarding and could also be extremely draining. Psychotherapy is never a quick fix – it’s a long and often arduous journey.

So on the days I wasn’t seeing clients, a sweet, lighthearted, romance, was unravelling on my screen. It was my tonic. A salve to sooth the darker aspects of my work. An opportunity for me to escape into a world where lead singers fall in love with their fans and destiny trumps reality.

I needed that space. It helped me to be more present for my clients. And my clients helped me to be more present for my characters.

Despite the fact I was writing a ‘breezy ‘ read – I still wanted George and Lexi and all their family and freinds to have dimension. I wanted them to be people that you, as the reader, could relate to and might want to know.

News wise this has been another oppressively desolate week. We are all asking ‘could things get any worse?’ and we don’t want to hear the answer. We share a collective grief which is washing over us in waves. Rightly so we are becoming involved in dialogues about gun control, mental health care and accountability.

My heart is beating at home, moving through the motions of my day, but my heart has also travelled to Newton, where it sits silently with all those bereft, sending out love and solidarity.

I questioned whether today was the day to post an excerpt from ‘Playing Along’ and I decided for all the reasons above – that it was.

I wrote the book in the first place to provide a small window of escape. Even in our darkest hours, carving out space for lightness and humour can be a soothing reminder of hope. So if you need a break from reading the news or watching the television, take a few minutes and get to know George and Lexi. They helped balance me out when I was searching for relief.

(If you want to skip the excerpt and save yourself for the book, please scroll down to the writing prompt at the bottom!)

PLAYING ALONG

by Rory Samantha Green

THEN

GEORGE, 1st November, 1994, Stanford in the Vale, Oxfordshire

“Your brother’s grown up a bit, hasn’t he?”

George holds his breath when he hears these words swoop past his bedroom door. He’s thirteen, but his sister is two years older and her friends are an enigma.  They smell like grapefruit and cigarettes and layer mascara on their lashes until they look like pandas.  Most of them have boobs.  Big ones.  He’s fascinated by the divide.  George’s sister, Polly, has maybe said one word to him in the last two weeks and that was muttered in disdain when he had mistakenly knocked her make-up brush off the counter and into the toilet.  It had floated forlornly in the bowl like a drowned rodent.

“Arsehole!”

But now there’s a chance of redemption.  Despite his skinny legs and spotty rounded face, it seems as if one of the awesome grapefruit girls has noticed something in him.  Something unique.  He reckons it will take a very special woman to appreciate his nuances.  His love of Grover from Sesame Street (so underrated – why did Kermit get all the limelight?) and his adoration of the most amazing music the universe has to offer – Bowie, U2, Portishead, Dylan, New Order.  The woman who takes his heart must take his record collection as well.

“My brother?” replies Polly in dramatic shock.  “Yeah, you could say he’s grown up – into a first rate troll.”

The grapefruit girls giggle and their laughter snakes under his door and rings painfully in his ears.  George bites his bottom lip, scraping his teeth against peeling skin. Another nervous habit.

“And listen to this… he claims one day he’s going to be in a famous band and be on the cover of NME and have groupies.  What a joke!”

George, prepared for the inevitable cackle of mockery, grabs his headphones and his CD player and presses play with an urgency.  “Fools Gold” by the Stone Roses floods his brain.  He turns up the volume as loud as it will go and hurls his notebook across the room where it ricochets off the wall and slides under his bed.  The notebook is filled with songs.  George has been unpacking heartache from his sensitive soul since the age of ten.

His sister’s harsh words are never as brutal as the words he calls himself.

He knows what he wants, but he’s pretty damn certain that a boy like him is never going to get it.

LEXI, November 1st, 1994, Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, California

“I’m psyched about the game tomorrow!”  Andrew enthusiastically polishes off his second burrito, gazing longingly at Lexi across the table.  She smiles at him mischievously knowing that she drives him crazy with her Juicy Fruit breath, her shiny brown hair, and her legs which have conveniently slimmed out and toned up since she started diligently attending an after school kickboxing class.

“I’m excited too,” she replies, playfully nudging his size twelve basketball shoes under the table.  “I hope you win, so we can celebrate.”

Lexi and Andrew are the couple at Pali High.  Just embarking on their senior year, they have been an item since the eleventh grade.  Andrew first kissed Lexi on Zuma beach with the waves lapping at their bare feet two nights after passing his driving test.  His parents had given him a convertible Mustang for his sixteenth birthday and when he drove her home, one hand on the wheel, the other holding hers, Lexi had a sweet taste lingering in her mouth and salty wind in her hair.

“So unfair,” her best friend, Meg, had complained the following morning.  “It’s not supposed to happen like that.  He’s supposed to drool, or run out of gas, or step on your toe or something.  Why is your life like an Audrey Hepburn movie and mine like a bad TV sitcom?”

And Lexi certainly didn’t want to be smug, but there was some truth in Meg’s observation.  Things just seemed to go her way.  Her parents had raised her to believe in herself and face life with a positive outlook.  Not that she was syrupy or self-obsessed.   She worked hard at her studies and had an excellent Grade Point Average.  She volunteered at a local homeless shelter, fingerpainting with vulnerable kids after school.  She’d started up a current events debate club in her junior year and persuaded many of her friends to join.  They now competed nationally.  Oh and of course, she kickboxed and played on the girls’ volleyball team, and thankfully had the sort of hair that didn’t frizz on damp mornings when the fog rolled in off the coast.

Lexi had lost her virginity to Andrew on the floor in his bedroom on a Sunday afternoon while his parents shopped at Target.  He had lit a scented candle stolen from his mother’s bathroom, and the smell of orange mimosa flooded the room.  “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by UB40 was playing on his CD player.

When it was over (slightly painful, but not nearly as uncomfortable as she had imagined), he leaned on his elbows beside her and whispered in her ear, “I can’t help falling in love with you…” One year later, sitting opposite him watching him wipe guacamole from the side of his lips, Lexi feels in her heart that she loves him too.  In fact she is sure, along with almost everyone else at Pali High who either knows them or admires them from afar, that they will most likely end up getting married.  Lexi’s mother has saved her own wedding dress for the occasion, wrapped in delicate layers of archival tissue in an ivory box on the top shelf of her cupboard.  “It’s just waiting, my beauty,” her mother has promised.

Lexi can picture their home now (a cozy New England style house, a few blocks from her parents, with whitewashed floors and shabby chic couches), two or maybe three kids (she really doesn’t have a preference for boys or girls) and most definitely a dog, a black Labrador called George.  She imagines a fulfilling and creative part time job as well, maybe a teacher or an art therapist, something that leaves her with the freedom to be a hands-on mom.  So what if she is only seventeen?  It’s just a dream, but life has already proven to Lexi that dreams do find a way of coming true.

NOW

GEORGE, 1st November, 2009, Greenwich, England

“George… I love you!”  On certain nights this professed love is yelled out a hundred times from men and women alike.  Most nights it disappears into the roar of the crowd, but at some gigs a single voice will miraculously separate out and hover above the throng of faceless fans and George hears it and needs it to be true.

George is at the piano finishing the final chords of “Beyond Being,” a poignant ballad based on his teenage existential musings and a lyric which popped into his head one day as he polished off a carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream.  The audience sways in time and cell phones punctuate the blackness like rechargeable flames.  George hangs his head as the song comes to a quiet end, his voice wavering with a sad clarity.

Thousands of fans cheer and whoop in adoration and George looks up shyly with his trademark grin.  “Thank you very much for coming.  We appreciate you might have better things to do with your Saturday nights, like watching X Factor, and the boys and I really enjoyed playing to you tonight…”  This, as intended, whips up the crowd into an even louder frenzy as George and his band mates lope off the stage with a schoolboy charm that has captivated fans across the world from Denmark to Chile, and every destination in between.

George has come a long way from the corner of his brown bedroom.  His band, Thesis, stormed onto the music scene with an unstoppable force after his best mate and guitarist, Simon Ogden-Smith, persuaded George to start up a Myspace page and stream some of their music. George, Simon, Simon’s cousin Mark, and Mark’s sister’s friend Duncan from Australia, had been playing local pubs in Islington and had been slowly building up a loyal fan base.  But the Myspace page catapulted them into a whole new stratosphere, and with a swiftness which at times found George’s throat closing with unprecedented anxiety, they burst onto the alternative music scene and made their mark.  Three months after being signed by a record company they were flown to Los Angeles to record their first album, Twelve Thousand Words.  George Bryce, still a sweaty lonely teenager at heart, found himself surrounded by attractive, fawning women called Claudia and Agnes and Nell.  They willingly offered their breasts to him without any pleading involved and he indulged in a whole new adolescence at twenty-two.

The band’s first big hit was a rocking anthem called “Grapefruit Girls,” an opportunity for George to get his revenge on those elusive females who had inducted him into the hall of shame.  George became an unlikely heartthrob, a self-deprecating lad who wore T-shirts with Grover on them and gave interviews about obscure comic books and rare vinyl.  His boyish looks, lopsided smile and thick shaggy black hair, once his greatest insecurity, suddenly became irresistible.  Even America, notoriously hard to break for an unheard-of alternative band, lapped up the accents and the awkwardness.  Critics either loved or hated Thesis and George made a point of reading every review, because no matter how famous they became, he never stopped caring about what people thought of him.

COMING IN JANUARY 2013!

Thank you for joining me on this writing adventure! I began my love of writing by hiding my words. I was a ‘closet’ writer. I’m out now and I encourage you to do the same!

Share something in the comments. Today’s prompt: take ten minutes to write about where you find lightness during periods of dark? Where can you access healthy relief and release?

I am taking a week off for the holidays so until we meet again…  peace, blessings and gratitude from me to you xo

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Beware the Slippery Slope

I have imperfection on the mind. We could all benefit from opening our arms wide to the flaws, the crinkles and wrinkles, the messy, nubby bits of life that tempt us to smooth everything out so we can see our reflection in a shiny sheen.

My 12 year old daughter brought an order form home from school this week, sent out by the company that took her yearbook photo. I was horrified to see on this form a prominent ad offering retouching of our children’s photographs to ‘Save the Day!’

“This service reduces any blemishes and lines that might take away attention from how great you look! We can do braces too…”

Just to make sure we ‘get’ it – there are before and after shots. A teenager with some acne and then – hey presto – acne gone! A mouth with braces and then – abracadabra – no braces!

God forbid when my daughter looks back as an adult at her yearbook, she should remember she was a ‘normal’ pre teen. Apparently  it is far preferable that I PAY to ensure that she appears ‘perfect’. Glossed over. False.

It’s a slippery slope and one that we now seem to be dragging our children down. Grabbing their hands and pulling them head first into the pitiful pit of ‘you could look better’ / ‘we all need improvements.’ Where might this company draw the line? Would they suggest slimming hips, augmenting breasts, shaping noses to ‘save the day’?

I know I live in LA, but for once that is no excuse!

Sending this kind of a message to children is inexcusable, especially under the guise of offering a service to ‘enhance’ our kids’ appearance .

This is not a service. This is clearly a disservice. Most especially for young people who are struggling with self esteem, feeling self conscious, longing for a transformation. By providing them with the digital magic to ‘fix’ things – we are drastically letting them down. Surely the transformation needs to come from within? A gentle and affirming path to acceptance. A slow and curious climb up, rather than that slippery downhill run.

I think society’s quest for perfection is especially confounding for creative people, because it is at odds with the true nature of expression.

At the core of creativity lies imperfection. Cracks and dents. Bumps and bulges. The endless act of trying something out and then trying it again- not necessarily to arrive at an ‘immaculate’ final product – but to remain playful with the process. 

This tenant lies at the foundation of my workshops and drives my own creative ethos.

Like an adolescence wrestling with their identity – creativity needs time to evolve and grow and articulate. Embrace the braces! Don’t airbrush out all the blemishes. Explore them. They will tell you a far more soulful story.

Take ten minutes and write about ‘transformation’, creative or otherwise. Reflect on your own life experiences as well as intentions for the year ahead.

Are their ‘blemishes’ that you might benefit from exploring? Are you too quick to retouch the undesirable pieces of your puzzle?

Write in your notebook or journal, or share on the blog.

Thank you for being part of The Write To Be You community! I am extremely grateful…

 

 

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How I Took my Eye Off the Prize

Pass the Parcel. It was a game we played at parties as children. A waiting game. A tempting game. We sat in a circle. Crossed legged. Filled with anticipation. Digesting soggy egg salad sandwiches and over-sugared chocolate cake.

When the music stopped, if the parcel was in your lap, you were allowed to unwrap it; tearing away a layer like the papery skin of a bulky onion.

As the minutes ticked by, the parcel diminished, growing smaller and smaller with each undressing.

I wanted the final prize. I longed to be the lucky winner whom fate looked kindly upon. I sat patiently in that circle, party after party, dreaming of being the one. The golden child who would reveal the treasure.

It never occurred to me that fate played no part in this process at all. It was all up to the grown-up with the cassette player. It was they who pressed the pause button. They who determined which child became the proud owner of a yoyo or a skipping rope or a leaky bottle of bubbles.

The funny thing is – I have no recollection of ever ‘winning’ that game, despite that fact I played it countless times. But I do remember the unwrapping. I vividly recall painstakingly peeling back the tape, willing the present to appear, even though I knew it was at least two songs away.

I remember being enthralled with the possibility. Compelled by the potential. Of course I wanted the gift at the end, but I was equally fascinated by the mechanics. I liked feeling the paper crinkle in my hands as it fell away from the parcel. Perhaps I also perversely enjoyed the feeling of envy that flooded me when it was all over. It began to define me as the child on the outskirts. It prepped me to avoid the limelight, in favour of the familiar safety of the shadows.

Why this memory now? Because it was right around this time last year that my novel, Playing Along, was passed on endlessly, while I sat silently in the circle, cross legged, holding my breath. Waiting to get lucky.

It took me until I was 42 to fully understand how important it was for me to take ownership of the damn cassette player. I could learn how to commandeer my own pause button.  I could release myself from being purely at the mercy of a benevolent publisher, and I could stop focusing solely on ‘the prize’.

Those  cheap yoyos never really worked anyway. Can you imagine all the scores of  ‘winning’ children left with a tangled string and a sinking feeling of inadequacy, even though they were indeed ‘the one’?

Once the all powerful cassette player became mine, Write To Be You workshops and blog were born. I liberated my creativity and discovered a ‘voice’. In doing so, I directly and indirectly released others, also bound too tightly in the very same game.

It has been incredibly humbling and inspiring listening and reading as new voices articulate in that circle around me. Thank you for keeping me company. Each week I learn something fresh and valuable from the process of writing the blog, reading your comments and stories, running the workshops and educating myself about self-publishing.

There is so much to be gained from paying attention to simply passing the parcel. Who knew that taking my eye off the prize could be so much fun?!

What memories of childhood party games do you have? Could you see them as metaphors in your present day?

OR

Reflect on if you might benefit from taking your eye off the prize and immersing yourself more fully in the process instead.

Have you been wanting to share your thoughts or stories on Write To Be you but never taken the leap? There is no time like the present!  Stop waiting for the ‘gift’ to materialise in your lap, just post something from your heart and pass the parcel on!

If you are reading this via an email subscription go directly to the website to comment! Clink on any highlighted links in the email to take you there!

 

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