Tag Archives: behaviour

Some Like it Hot

Someone close to me went to an earth shift sweat lodge this week. It sounds uncomfortable doesn’t it? Apparently it is. This isn’t a luxury, sanitized sauna at a four-seasons resort. This is the real deal. You and twenty other people cram shoulder to shoulder into a tent, low to the ground, where you sit on the soil amongst hot burning rocks for two hours.

In the dark.

Dripping ceaselessly.

Confronted by reluctance. Fear. Resistance. Anxiety. And eventually surrender.

And when you surrender – that’s when the good stuff apparently starts happening. That’s when you feel reflective. Resilient. Courageous. Cleansed.

Anyway – that’s what I’ve been told. Which is a very different experience to trying it out myself.

Think about how often  we are ‘moved’ by another person’s story? Moved to tears. Moved to smile. Moved to consider.

Being moved is a valaubale resposnse but also a sedenatry one. Feeling something deeply doesn’t always lead to allowing that feeling to propel you.

Now think about how often you ‘move’ after being impacted by something you’ve heard or read? Move to to contribute. Move to change something in your world. Move towards participation.

You might well be intrigued by someone else’s life experience but if that intrigue doesn’t lead to inspiration, and that inspiartion doesn’t lead to action, then all it remains to be is – someone else’s experience.

Am I proposing that we all squeeze into a hot tent? No. But I am suuggesting that we become more open to being affected by other people’s lives. I am suggesting that we pay closer attention to what ‘moves’ us and then make a move in return.

I personally was fascinated by the idea of the sweat lodge. It left me pondering how much time and money and energy we expend in the developed world keeping ourselves ‘comfortable’ when there is much to gain from being confronted by discomfort. Whether that discomfort be awkwardness, anxiety, fear, trepidation.

It’s essential every once in awhile to drag ourselves out of our element and exist in a place that feels too hot or too scary or too new.

Staying safely cocooned leads to apathy. Not only apathy towards events in the world around us, but apathy towards ourselves. A numb sense of disconnection. Distance from the potential to truly and profoundly grow.

The ‘movement’ I’m imagining can be any size and take any shape.

  • Tackling a conversation you’ve been avoiding.
  • Taking steps towards launching a new project.
  • Signing up for a class or a workshop.
  • Trying something you don’t think you can do.
  • Volunteering at an organization that you believe in.
  • Beginning a diet or an exercise program.

It doesn’t really matter what it is.

Just as long as it makes you sweat.

Write about discomfort. What is it you need to do at this point in your life that will bring sweat and growth?  Remember it doesn’t have to be huge. Baby steps count too. Perhaps posting something here on Write To Be You can be your first attempt at sweating. Does writing make you uncomfortable? Post anonymously. Try it…

OR

Write for ten minutes about something you DON’T want to write about. Face the discomfort. Burn it or tear it up afterwards if you feel the need to.

 

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Welcome to Wavering

There’s a distinct difference between writer’s block and writer’s blah.

Writer’s block is dense. Brick. Concrete. Slab.

Writer’s blah is foggy. Murky. Swampy. Slump.

Writer’s block is hard to miss. It’s the desolation of a blank page. A flashing cursor taunting you. A pen frozen in your hand.

Writer’s blah on the other hand is more deceptive. The words come but they arrive tangled or flat. They crowd your brain pressuring you to create some sort of tasteful order.  Or they plod onto the page lumpily like small farting creatures sticking out their tongues.

Either way you feel cheated.

You reminisce about past words which flowed from you organically. You become nostalgic as your mind drifts back to the poem you wrote in the fourth grade – the one that earned you three shiny stickers and the round face with the black smile.

When I come up against both block or blah, I have a tendency to lean into ‘what’s the point?’.  It’s a well worn phrase in my repertoire.  If I repeat it enough times ‘what’s the point?’ grants me permission to walk away. To stop trying. To stop struggling. To take myself out of the running.

And my god – that feels like sweet relief.

But the feeling is short lived.

Very soon after, I start prodding myself. Sticking insults like old, rusty pins into the tender lining of my soul.

“Idiot – you always give up.”

“You never follow through.”

“You’re hopeless.”

And so the cycle begins. And the cycle is not only vicious, but cunning. It provides no obvious escape route.

If I write – I’m rubbish.  If I don’t  write – I’m rubbish times two.

I’d love to come up with some perky quotes to help us all through the block and the blah. But if you’re looking for perky quotes – Write To Be You is not your destination. I could hop onto Instagram or Pinterest and design a motivational banner, declaring in a curly font that GIVING UP IS NOT AN OPTION!

But truthfully – we all know that giving up is an option. We get hurt. Or tired. We lose focus. And that’s normal.

In the midst of Olympic mania, I  notice a feeling of inadequacy in the face of  extraordinary human beings who push themselves to inhuman limits in order to compete.

Watching a long distance run event this week, I was more captivated by an athlete who strayed off the track halfway through the race than I was by the winners. I felt an urge to find that runner. To give her a hug. To gently wipe her tears and tell her that it’s okay to cry.

Being human involves trying and failing. Giving up and getting up. Banging against blocks and battling the blah.

It involves wavering – finding yourself on the side of the track when just a moment before you were running the race.

So what is the Point?

I can’t say I have any idea… but I do know that writing, even when it’s the last thing in the world I feel like doing, helps me to make some meaning of that eternal unanswerable question.

Are you familiar with asking yourself ‘What’s the point?’ Write about blocks and blah. Write about giving up or getting up or both. Write a response to this post – even if you don’t want to. Notice the resistance and write anyway.

 

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Wait Here

I’ve been sitting here for a while now pondering the blank screen. It’s not a comfortable feeling – waiting. But it’s also not an unfamiliar one. I feel like I spend a lot of life waiting. Waiting for the oven to pre heat. Waiting for the traffic to move. Waiting to hear back from someone about something. Waiting for the result. Waiting for my toenail polish to dry. Waiting for  my vitiligo to spread. Waiting for that sinking feeling. Waiting for my ‘aha’ moment. Waiting to  visit the places that I’ve left behind. Waiting to take my own advice.

When I was teenager I used to wait for the phone to ring. Actually, looking back, I understand that I was waiting to become a grown-up, a woman, a lover, a writer. I was waiting for life.

It’s tedious isn’t it, this waiting for life to happen?

And it’s hard to avoid. How do we reconcile our expectations of what we imagined might happen with the reality of what is happening? How do we push ourselves out of the waiting room and into the world?

Fifteen years ago I had a book published. it was a children’s picture book which took me no more than a few hours to write. The story arrived inside of me like a sudden gift. It landed elegantly whole, not in splinters or fragments like stories sometimes do. It was the tale of a puppy called Charlie, who was searching for an owner. He was so determined to find the ‘perfect’ owner that he put an ad in the newspaper with a checklist of his criteria (he was a very enterprising puppy).

And then he waited.

And waited.

And waited.

While he was waiting, he discovered a true friend and companion who lived next door. While he was waiting he began to live.

The book, to my surprise, performed very well when it found its way out of my head and into the bookstores. It was reprinted. It was translated. It was nominated for awards. It was selected by the ‘selectors’ as something special.  I thought getting the book published meant that MY waiting was over. I assumed it meant that the career I had been searching for had begun.

I was wrong. And right.

It had begun but the waiting never ended. And a ‘career’ is not one neatly wrapped story, tied with a purple and green polka dotted bow. For some of us, a career is an unwieldily package. Sharp cornered. Taped tightly. Tough to get into to. Sometimes it is even too heavy to pick up and shake, preventing us from flirting with the fantasy of what it might contain.

I never had another book published. Not for lack of trying. I tried. Not a hundred times, but I tried. I waited in vain for that box to find me again. The one with with satin ribbon and the soft cotton bedding, cradling the diamond. But now I’m taking an ironic page from my own book. I’m channeling Charlie and paying some attention to what is vs.what if.

I’m becoming rather fond of  the ungainly weather worn parcel with the tattered bottom. I’ve learnt the value in hacking away at various corners revealing curious glimpses into what just might be inside. I’m actively practicing patience, which requires a lot more productive energy than sitting around and tapping the table top.

And fifteen years on, publishing is no longer dependent on endless waiting. So I’m here, writing, because the only thing my words depend on – are me.

Write for ten minutes about the word ‘waiting’. What are you waiting for? Is there an area of your life where you can stop waiting and take back some power instead?

OR

Write a fictional piece with the theme of ‘waiting’. This could be the beginning of something longer. A character sketch. An outline. An opening paragraph. Anything! Don’t wait… Just write!

 

 

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Singing in the Street

It was a rare occasion to be collected from school by my father. My sister and I had a half day. My dad picked us up and took us out to lunch. I might have been ten. I don’t remember the food we ate. I do remember he bought me a white bird that looked strangely real. It had glass eyes and wings made from silky soft feathers. I ran my fingers endlessly over those wings, imagining it had landed on my window sill to speak a special language, only to me.

My father held my hand as we walked through the West End of London and he sang out loud. My sister and I hit the back of his coat and begged him to stop. He took us later that day to see Flash Gordon in the Odeon cinema on the Edgware Road. Besides us, there were probably only fifteen people in the cinema. I was mesmerized by the adventure on the screen.  Neon lycra, laser guns and the Crash(!) Boom (!) Pow(!) of a boy’s world that had remained elusive to me being the youngest of three girls. My dad wasn’t so mesmerized. He fell asleep. Head lolling forward. Loud snores erupting in bursts. I tried to jostle his arm to wake him up. It didn’t happen. He just wasn’t that riveted by the Saviour of the Universe.

Parents are embarrassing. It’s not my opinion.  It’s a well documented fact.

My Dad was embarrassing but he was MY embarrassing… if he hadn’t sang in the street or snored in the cinema, I might not be recalling the tender details of that afternoon. If he had been dull or bland, twenty years after his death, it would be harder to conjure up the moments that make me smile on father’s day.

My mother was enormously embarrassing too. She collected us from school wearing an impossibly fluffy orange fur coat, flared jeans and owl round sunglasses. Today she might get splattered in red paint, but in 1978 she was the epitome of cool. She was the true manifestation of a yummy mummy, and totally immune to the glares of other more reserved mums, piling kids in the backs of station wagons, heading for Hampshire to their weekend retreats. My parent’s were city rebels. My mum drove a two door silver Mustang with black leather seats, and a perfect white stain on the vinyl roof, imprinted by my vanilla ice cream cone. I’d stand behind the driving seat and hold onto the smell in her hair. Estee Lauder Youth Dew. She made being a grown-up look so very fun and easy. But she was still embarrassing. She was a mother after all – it was part of her job description.

When I became a grown-up, I realized that life wasn’t nearly as breezy or fun as my mother had made it seem.

Perhaps that’s when I started singing in the street.

I might not have fur or glamour on my side, but I have found my own unique methods to ensure my children cringe. And on the days I don’t successfully humiliate them, my husband manages to pick up my slack. Somehow I am reassured by this cycle of life. Like the secret language I shared with my white bird… each family has their own code to interpret. And while back in the seventies I flinched  at my parent’s eccentricities, I grin fondly at the recollections now.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Take a moment and recall some of your own parents’ embarrassing highlights! For some of us this can tip from humour into shame… notice your feelings. See what emotions surface as you begin to write. When I wrote my piece, I felt very sentimental.  Has time smoothed away the creases or does the memory still make your toes curl?!

Be brave, feel free… share your words. Your stories are a gift to me and all the Write To Be You readers… thank you!

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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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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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