Tag Archives: awareness

Double Exposure

At the time of writing this, thanks to those of you who generously donated your words, I have raised $395 for The Pablove Foundation.  48 of you sent me a fictional story, poem or memory inspired by a simple picture of an ice cream cone taken by a child living with cancer. 48 of you carved out time from your busy schedules and pledged your words, trusting your voice and risking sharing.

I am so grateful to those of you who participated. 

Plus it was such a treat for me to read the contributions landing daily… each expression unique and interesting. If you haven’t already, have a browse through the comments from the Incentive posts. There are far more than 31 flavours!

With every new comment that arrived, I sensed a community gathering.

This was always my intention for the blog and for Write To Be You. Writing only in isolation can feel extremely lonely. While writing and sharing, linking words like hands, has the collective potential to nourish your soul and expand your outlook. But with that nourishment comes the threat of exposure, and I realized over the last 2 weeks, that many of my readers didn’t join in my fundraising campaign for fear of feeling over exposed. The realization saddened me. I want to emphasize here that any contribution to the site can be submitted anonymously. You can even invent a fabulous nom de plume and waltz your words around the screen with abandon, cleverly disguised by your daring alter ego.

But more importantly, I’d like to propose that some level of exposure is vital to the creative process and integral to growth.

Think old school SLR cameras. The shutter has to open, even briefly, in order to catch a flash of light and imprint the image onto the film. Human beings are not so different. A little exposure can go a long way. Can you break free of your ‘not a writer’ persona and write anyway? Can you give yourself permission to play with words or thoughts and discard the looming fear of being compared or judged?

Can you allow yourself to develop?

Somewhere in the script of my childhood I repeatedly heard the line, “people don’t change.” I am here to contest that notion. I absolutely believe in the power of subtle transformation. Not necessarily sweeping leaps of faith… but small skips in alternate directions. Hushed murmurs like butterfly wings, powerful because they are intricately bold rather than overbearing.

So open the shutter.

Capture a surprising aspect of yourself. Some of the most intriguing photographs are double exposures, randomly stolen moments, immortalized by mistake. Why are these images so captivating? Because they reveal that two things can exist at the same time. You don’t have to define yourself with only limited parameters. Writing is not only for ‘writers’. Creativity is available to everyone.

Demand that the uptight, hard assed teacher living inside of you put down her red pen and experiment with some other colors for once. And while she’s distracted, discard your uniform, skip through the hallways and release your words into the world.

The butterflies are waiting.

PS.If you didn’t get around to donating words for one reason or another, my deadline is up, but you can always go directly to the Pablove site and donate $10 yourself. Every little bit counts…

Are you afraid of exposure? Where does the fear stem from? Can you break through the fear and explore writing something? Anything? Be gentle on yourself. If you don’t want to be too revealing, invent a name and see what words come. Equally, if you have reaped the benefits of exposure, please share!

Or

Create a character who resists change. Write an outline of this person and notice how you feel about them as you write. Think about their backstory. What and who has shaped them?

 

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Ready, Steady, Write # 20

Photograph by cjohnlang

Reflect on this image

What floats into your mind?

A story?

A memory?

A wish?

Allow words to flow

Share in the comments…

 

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Unpacking

Photograh by Mr Woodnz

My family and I moved from London to Los Angeles almost exactly two years ago. While packing up our lives, I found myself unpacking a plethora of feelings related to change, loss, endings, beginnings, doubt.  I was showered in sadness. I cried so often that looking back it’s hard to believe through those tears I managed to cope with all the practical tasks. I was a soggy mess. Our boxes arrived in Los Angeles stained with my teardrops – a reminder of my emotional confetti.

Moving is incredibly challenging and as human beings we are frequently confronting displacement and relocation in various guises. Moving house. Moving country. Moving school.  Moving jobs. Moving relationships. Many people package up their feelings about these ‘moves’ along with their external belongings. Sadness gets taped up. Fear gets shoved in a side pocket. Anxiety gets filed away in a folder titled ‘UNHELPFUL’. And we forge ahead, still in possession of these feelings, but desperately hoping that concealing them will make them less potent.

In England we call this a ‘Stiff Upper Lip’. But isn’t it true that we have all seen that ‘rigid’ lip wreak havoc in many ways, in many countries, translated into many languages?

Repressing profound emotional states can have major repercussions. Feelings that have been filed away, unprocessed, have ways of finding the oxygen they need. They follow us through life, festering, waiting to leak out like toxic fumes or explode into billowing clouds of anger. Or simply collapse, leaving us in fragile heaps.

I know from experience that people are afraid of revealing too much emotion. Keeping it safely hidden away feels so much tidier. But release can take different shapes for different people. You don’t have to have a personality transplant. Find ways to gently tap into your feelings if they have been locked up for a while. Choose a friend who you trust. Consider talking to a counsellor or a therapist. Buy yourself a notebook and begin to write or draw. Creative expression is boundless and free and is available to everyone. But firstly, you must be willing to explore.

Two years on I feel more lucid and centered. I’m rediscovering a sense of being ‘placed’ internally and externally. Facing, rather than avoiding my grief about leaving, has helped me to arrive in each day, to stay authentic, and to feel empowered by my emotions, instead of endowing them all the power to overthrow me.

How does this post resonate with you? Write about a significant ‘move’ in your life and explore the feelings around it. Write for ten minutes. Time yourself. Share any thoughts or responses in the comments.

 

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Change of the Heart

photograph by Steve Fraeemba

I have been occupied with the idea of change this week because I have been making changes to the Write To Be You site. I hope you like them. I’ve been obsessing over very little things like font and spacing and shades of green. I have been awarding these small changes monumental amounts of importance – cursive versus sans serif.  Lighter or darker. Up or down. And while in the midst of this fixation with getting everything on the site ‘just right’ I received a phone call telling me that one of my dearest, beloved friends had been admitted to hospital with chest pains. Within twenty four hours he underwent a procedure to unblock a stubbornly blocked artery in the chambers of his heart. The cardiac surgeon announced he was days away from a massive heart attack.

Suddenly fonts didn’t seem so important anymore.

Life is full of minutia that stress us out to no end. Schedules, traffic, electronics, laundry, dishes, spills, stains, tangles, grievances – large and tiny. Fonts. And there on the other side of the spectrum, hovering quietly in stark polarity – our mortality.

It seems absurd that all of the ‘business’ that pads our every day lives can be rendered completely useless in a moment of heart felt pain.

Absurd but true.

My friend has been advised that he needs to change. A lot. He needs to change his diet, his habits, his routine. He needs to slow down. Pay more attention. Be kinder to himself . But this I believe should be a universal mantra. I tell it to my workshop participants weekly.

As lovely as it sounds though, change like this can be ridiculously  hard. If only it were as easy as adjusting a font. My friend is worried that he will be so buoyed by his ‘lucky escape’ that he might fall back into denial, assuming himself to have access to as many second chances as a crafty cat. Odds are he won’t, unless he opts for transformation. And even that is uncertain… longevity is a gift not a given.

So what are our choices when it comes to contemplating change? To remain blocked emotionally and or physically, despite knowing that ultimately this will result in some form of pathology catching up with us? Or to explore routes to unblocking?  Enlist help from those who love us. Loiter in moments of joy. Express and create with both careful reflection and urgent abandon.

I know which one I am choosing. And I hope that my friend, who had a beautifully large heart to begin with, will opt for a similar route, now that some of the unblocking has been taken care of for him.

On  a lighter note – what do you think of this font?

Write for ten minutes using the word CHANGE as a springboard. Share in the comments! Or simply respond to this post – does it resonate with you? Tell me why…

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Have Patience With Passion

I love the idea of following your passion. Stalking the things you lust after in life with a determined stride – a cartoon heart pulsating through your sweater.

Ba boom ba boom!

Photograph by Kai Hendry (Creative Commons)

But what if you don’t have a passion? What if you have been slow to find that buzz and you are hovering behind a tree trunk attempting to look inconspicuous, while the frenzied masses parade brazenly through the park?

Passions are not passed out freely like t-shirts at a play off game. They are not allocated like names on a birth certificate. As we grow, some of us discover pursuits that consume our soul. Fill us with heat. Compel us to create. But not all of us.  We make attempts. We make mistakes. We try again. We give up. We move on. We stagnate. We begin to question what it is that we have been put on earth to do? The constant carnival around us can feel overwhelming. So much pressure to compete. So much expectation to fashion an elaborate headdress and join the parade with a trombone, when some mornings we can barely get out of our pjs and muster shaking a rusty tambourine.

So what’s the answer if you feel passionless?

Patience.

Patience with yourself. Patience with pottering. Patience with lighting lots of little votive candles instead of being swallowed whole by an inferno. Patience and passion originate from the same root – the latin word ‘pati’, which interestingly means ‘to suffer’. Waiting for a passion to unfurl in your soul can feel distressing, but then again, so can dealing with the intensity of talent. The drive to produce. The push to be consistently ‘on’. So if suffering is the common demoninator, than why not just accept that one is not infinitely better than the other?

If you don’t have an obvious passion to follow, don’t despair. It doesn’t mean you don’t have something valuable to offer. There is a place for us all. A place for the ponderers, the investigators, the reflective dreamers and a place for the flame throwers who tango on the float.

Exchange energies occasionally. Trade a delicate fallen leaf with a glittery tiara and learn that both can be extraordinary.

Write for ten minutes using the words Passion and Patience as springboards. Share your thoughts on this post in the comments or share a story triggered by your reflections. If you’ve been reading every week but have yet to share a response… why not let today be the day?

 

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Hold Me Now

Some mornings my daughter feels wobbly, and separating from me and the comforts of home is suddenly daunting. On those days, I promise to send her mind mail. The thought of an invisible envelope arriving in her head in the hours to come, full of Mummy love and swirly hugs and kisses, calms her considerably. In that moment I am reassuring her that I will keep her in my thoughts. Warmly. Securely. I might not be able to place my hand on her shoulder, or stroke her hair, but I can ‘hold’ her in a different way.

Being held in mind is a vital psychological component to all attachment relationships.


Genuinely holding someone in your mind spins delicate, transparent threads of intimacy across even the widest gaps, deepening confidence and trust.

Psychotherapists and others working in the healing professions have learnt to understand the potency of holding clients in mind between sessions. During the days that bridge our meetings, I make a point of remembering words written by my group, creating a special ‘holding’ space for them in my thoughts.

Energetically, we feel the difference. When I was a lovesick teenager waiting a whole summer for the boy I was besotted by to send a letter across an ocean, the disappointment ran achingly deep. Not only because I felt rejected, but more accurately because I felt completely forgotten. I knew he was not cradling me anywhere in his heart. It was as if I had evaporated.

Maintaining relationships can at times feel overwhelming… despite technology providing so many more opportunities to do so.  Ironically, finding ways to feel truly ‘connected’ to others can remain elusive.

Begin by hosting a quiet gathering in your mind. Be choiceful about who you invite in. Offer them something sweet (the best part is you can do all of this lying down on the sofa with your feet up and your eyes closed!) Put the Beach Boys on your i-pod dock, look around the room, make eye contact with all your guests and open your arms for hugs. Once you begin to send out the Good Vibrations, I believe you are more susceptible to accepting them back in return.

This exercise might lead to a phone call. A spontaneous text. An overdue email. Even a quick ‘like’ on Facebook of a post you appreciated but passed by. Who knows, it might even lead to writing a real letter with a real pen and real paper. But ultimately, what it will achieve is not so precise, not so easily pinned down.  It is an unspoken gesture. A feathery kiss blown to an unaware recipient. A silent murmur of friendship and love.

A powerful affirmation of emotional bonds.

Write for Ten Minutes using the title of this post as a prompt – Hold Me Now. Don’t edit, just let the words and feelings rise to the surface.
I am always here… holding this space… waiting to listen… willing to hear whatever you need to write.
Share in the comments…

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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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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Next week I’m leaving my computer.

It’s just a trial separation.  It’s something we’ve been considering for a while now. I’ve begun to notice we make each other edgy.  I’m aware of a disturbing co-dependancy. An unhealthy pull. As if the world would be trickier to navigate without my trusty device. My computer reluctantly agrees with me.  He’s been showing signs of stress recently – spinning aimlessly in a tiny circular rainbow for minutes on end.  Not listening to me. Refusing to cooperate.  I’ve been ‘forced to quit’ him one too many times over the last few weeks.

So we’re breaking up. Temporarily. What options do I have? I could go old skool and ask each of you reading for your snail mail and send you my posts in the post?  Maybe not. I wouldn’t get very much ‘reach’ that way. I’ve been reading a lot about ‘reach’ lately… how we bloggers should be aiming to impact as many people as possible in any one moment.

All I imagine when I hear the word ‘reach’ are the arms of a child, stretching up, looking to be held.

Attachment Theory tells us that we are hard wired to crave connection. My apple is hard wired for many things, except human emotion. When I whispered to my monitor yesterday evening, “It’s not you…it’s me,” I really meant it.  I need to detach from the lure of the screen. He, on the other, just kept humming.

Will my reader care? Will you look forward to my words upon my return? Hold me in mind? Isn’t that why we revisit our various accounts so often? Checking views and clicks and comments and followers.

We are searching for validation.  Needing to be needed.

The hunger to know ‘do I matter to you?’ lies at the core of all our attachment systems. The attachment relationship we establish with our mother, father and/or significant care givers when we are babies defines the way we relate for the rest of our lives. Even how writers relate to their ‘audience’.

So I’m going. Only for a week. I’ll be taking my notebook and a pen (keep this on the down low – I don’t want Mac getting jealous) I’m going to discover how days with my family might unfold without tapping and typing, scrolling and ‘liking’.  (I’ve also intervened in my teenage son’s unsuitable relationship. I never liked that laptop anyway…)

I’m trusting you’ll be here reading when I get back, unless of course I’ve inspired you to have the “I need some time on my own” conversation as well.

Either way.  I’ll keep writing when the holiday is over.  Keep striving to ‘reach’. Arms poised up and open, waiting for that glimpse of recognition, that melting feeling that comes with the promise of touch.

If you would like to read more about Attachment Theory, John Bowlby, alongside Mary Ainsworth, was one of the first psychotherapists to identify it. He wrote a seminal  trilogy of books beginning with ‘Attachment’ in 1969.

What comes to mind when you hear the word attachment? Write a poem beginning each line with the words “I am attached to…”

Do you too need a trial separation from your electronic lovers?! Share in the comments section… 

 

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Ready, Steady, Write # 9

We are surrounded by stories
But we don’t always see them.
Become aware…
I passed this scene yesterday
I was intrigued
Not only by who on earth would buy that horse lamp?!
But also by the body language of the couple
THERE IS A STORY HERE
TELL IT
Please share your story, a one line caption (ONE line!!) or
a personal response in the comments section… I’m wishing for the community to GROW
Ready? Steady? You know the drill…

 

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SLOW DOWN and BREATHE


Each week a Write To Be You Reflective Writing Workshop has a different theme.

Yesterday’s group were reminded by a big sign taped to my front door to SLOW DOWN and BREATHE. Sounds easy enough, but can be hard to achieve when you are accustomed to speeding through life. Navigating traffic.  Rushing through ceaseless emails. Skating down supermarket aisles watching the clock. Ending a conversation because you have to move on… to another conversation.  Gulping down food. Forgetting to drink. Forgetting to pee. Skipping meals because time is of the essence. Rushing to work. Rushing to school. Rushing home from work.  Rushing home from school. Are you tired yet?! I am!

The irony is, we lose the essence of time by not savouring it.  All of this urgency to make it through yet another day steals from us the chance to loiter in our lives. To linger in a subtle moment and expand it with our undivided attention.

At the end of yesterday’s workshop, as the group were settling down for their guided mediation, I noticed the UPS driver walking towards my front door.  I could see him through the glass.  I’ve only ever exchanged a pleasant greeting with him and accepted packages. I know nothing of his life, but I don’t envy his schedule. An endless litany of deliveries.

He paused at the sign on the door and left the box at the threshold. In my fantasy, he ambled leisurely back to his truck, listening to the rustle of the wind in the bamboo leaves, becoming aware of the gradual rise and fall of his rib cage, as he too had been reminded to SLOW DOWN and BREATHE.

I encourage you to take a moment to linger. Examine an object you use or pass everyday with little to no thought. Direct your attention to that object and reflect on it and then write about it in detail. Ten minutes is all you need.  So many people can’t manage to slow down, even for ten minutes. Try it! And then try again tomorrow and the next day and the next day.

Breathe deeply as you write.

Who knows, even as I post this, the UPS driver might be signing up to a yoga class. Stretching his body into downward dog. Enjoying the citrusy sting of a lemon on his tongue.

We all need a reminder…

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