Tag Archives: courage

Face to Facebook

Ever since I was young, I was drawn towards a few very close friendships…choosing intimacy and emotional connection over flittering throngs of social butterflies. But still those butterflies’ shimmering wings attracted my attention.

Recently on Facebook a girl from my graduating high school class created a ‘closed’ group for the class of 1987. In high school I always felt like I was on the outside of something seductive. Looking versus living. When I requested to be added to this group, I found myself flooded with outdated emotions. Some of the women had posted old photos. Raucous, toga clad  fifteen year old girls, draped over one another effortlessly, linked by confident smiles and the effervescent air of popularity. I am sure were I to come face to face with these women now, we could converse easily about our jobs and families, maybe even our pets.

But coming face to Facebook with them distracted me.

I felt unsettled. Awkward. Envious. All the unpalatable feelings that had smeared much of my adolescence with a bitter icing.

Past emotional states have ways of re-establishing rule when you least expect them to. They can materialize like invisible obstacles daring you not to trip. Taunting you not to fall.

Photograph by Chris Blakeley

But fall I did. I was thinking about these high school girls and the isolation I used to feel when I was walking Lilly (my dog) this week. I was deep in thought, composing the opening sentence to my next hopefully riveting post. I saw a man up ahead, walking slowly, chatting on his phone. I decide to pick up my pace and sprint by him so he wouldn’t slow me down. I felt like pushing forward. Forging ahead. I wanted to run those high school days right out of my mind. As I was just about to pass him, I tripped on that damned invisible obstacle. I flew. Dramatically. Unexpectedly. Magnificently. I landed in a heap at the feet of this poor unsuspecting dog walker. I smashed my knee. I lay nose down in all my vulnerability. Defeated. Ridiculous. I felt fifteen again.

He was very gracious. He waited while I collected my thoughts and my diginity. He tried not to express his own shock as I counted the animated birds gathering in a halo above my head. He told me his name and shook my hand and eventually I hobbled home. I’m waiting for him to add me as a friend on Facebook.

So I didn’t have to write my post this week because my post wrote me. And that’s what happens sometimes. We lose control of something we think we have all the power over. We get hijacked by old experiences. Stale emotional states try to convince us that they are still in date. And it’s hard to STOP them.

The trick, I have decided, is learning how to avoid swallowing feelings that have long since expired. How to stay standing tall. Or if, like me, you can’t help but fall, how to pick yourself up and courageously limp away.

Take ten minutes and write about high school or secondary school. Compare your perspective then and now. Do you have some feelings that are past their expiration date which need to be cleared from your cupboard?! Share in the comments!

PS. It has come to my attention that some of you who are subscribed via email are replying directly to the emails you receive. Unfortunately that is a NO REPLY email address and I do not receive those responses. If you want to respond, please leave a comment by visiting the site directly, or you can reach me at [email protected]  Thank you!

 

Leave a Comment

Not Going To Do It

I’ve been writing this blog regularly for six months. For six months the ideas have been flowing – like turning on a tap and finding water.  It’s been eerily effortless. I’ve felt confidently creative. Pleasantly productive.  I’ve been taking it for granted.

Until now.

I had a crazy, busy weekend, full of celebration and story, but when I thought about writing Monday’s blog, my mind drew a blank. My faucet sputtered and gulped. Obstructed by air in the pipes, I confronted manic bursts of feeling, but no free flowing, inspirational thoughts or words.

So I paused.

In the past I might have panicked.

In the past I have retreated, sometimes for years at a time. I have become a bear, addicted to hibernating my ideas, restricting them from light, killing them off with dreary dampness. I came to rely on the dangerous safety of defining myself as ‘creatively blocked’. It felt so much more manageable than rousing my soul and tentatively crawling out into the open air. I was possibility adverse. A quiet sulk always seemed a better option.

But when the water didn’t flow this week, I simply gave myself a break. I didn’t write. I slept a bit longer. I tried to ignore the vitriolic voice within – the nasty naysayer who was filing her horribly long nails and muttering, “Don’t flatter yourself. You’re most likely boring everyone silly. They’ll be relieved to not get another tedious email from you.”

And then I heard from a friend late last night, “I noticed you didn’t post anything today – Monday being your day…I always look forward to it.”

It was straightforward. Honest. Resonant. I paid attention. I took my finger off the PAUSE button and I pressed PLAY instead.

I’m grateful to my friend for nudging me. I’m grateful that I’ve learned to reflect and respond rather than only reacting and running. It’s all too easy to imagine ourselves irrelevant when we encounter the slightest hurdle.  This happens in every area of our lives. We adopt a position of defence. For me that position was clinging to a musty blanket in the corner of my cave.

No more.

If you’re hovering in a creative netherworld I hope that these posts can provide a chink of light.  It has taken me three times longer than usual to write this! But I’ve become stubborn. I’m not going to return to my default position. I’m resisting the pull.

There’s a comfortable log just outside the entrance of my cave. It’s under a tall Robinia tree with kindly spreading branches and delicate lime green leaves. I’m sitting there for now. I’m listening to my breath. I’m lulling words from thin air.

Come and say hello?

Choices: Write for ten minutes using the word ‘cave’ as a springboard or share a story of struggling with a creative obstacle. It  feels good to share experiences. I’m listening….

 

Leave a Comment

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.

 

Leave a Comment

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…

Leave a Comment

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!

 

Leave a Comment

And Then Again

I spoke to my sister in London yesterday who told me that spring is in in the air.  She works at a school, and she noticed that the children had finally emerged from their thick puffy coats and were running around the playground in t-shirts. Like seeds hiding beneath the frosty earth, they had found the courage to break out and unveil themselves.

I do not have the pleasure of dancing to the rhythm of seasons now that I live in Los Angeles. I mourn the cycles that punctuated my year. The buttery yellow swarms of daffodil heads. The sudden rush of vibrant green stems and fields of fresh grass. The papery autumns filled with a thousand shades of orange. The crinkle and crunch of fallen leaves enveloping my feet. Then the starkness of winter. The bite on my cheeks. The bareness of branches reminding me that mother nature so accurately mirrors human nature.  A familiar cycle of moods. Light to dark. Empty to full.  Birth to death. And then again. And then again.

Holding onto hope after a loss can feel impossible. Improable. A blurry destination hovering in the far off distance. Grief is arresting.  Like a sudden winter it descends with a million bitter promises. I will strip you down.  Freeze your heart.  Darken your skies. Disect the sun.  There are no platitudes to brighten the bleakest periods of our lives.  But there will always be the arrival of spring. Even here in Los Angeles the jacaranda trees are preparing to burst out in eccentric purple blossom creating boulevards of bloom.

Loss is permanent, but grief, like the seasons changes temperature. It is hard to imagine this when the chill has just descended; difficult to trust that spring will come again and that somewhere in the world there will be children, peeling off their coats, ready to embrace a warmer day.

Writing about loss is both painful and healing. We often bury the most tender words for fear of unearthing more grief. Ironically, it is when grief is given air that its temperature can change. Share a story of loss… like all emotions, grief is a human connector… a universal experience that touches lives everywhere.
Write for ten minutes.  Don’t aim for anything but pure expression. You have permission to give up your desire to craft. Simply write. To Be You…

Leave a Comment

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!

Leave a Comment
Video

Shaking It Out

Florence Welch is an extraordinary role model for young women and a phenomenal talent – she’s brave, passionate, playful, imaginative, feminine, sexy and in my opinion, has the most beautiful voice.

Her music needs turning up. Loudly. Her lyrics need listening to.

I am electing “Shake it Out” as the best song to turn the volume up on this New Years Eve. It is definitely one of my favourite songs of the year.

And it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake him off…

What is it that you need to shake off or shake out as the new year approaches? Listen to this song and give some thought to those devils on your back… how did they get there? What part do you play in keeping them there? Can you liberate those demons and dance more freely?

Write for as long or as little as you like. Just write.
Here’s to love, health, creativity, courage and inspiration in 2012 xoxo

Page 3 of 3123