Tag Archives: details

Every Person’s Life

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In 1987 renowned Gestalt psychotherapist, Erving Polster, wrote a book called “Every Person’s Life is Worth a Novel”.  In this book he writes:

Stories must not only be told, but also heard. What is said gains value from the listeners understanding…

He goes on to write:

We also use stories to join our lives with those of other people…

I recently had the pleasure of meeting some of the founders of a remarkable and powerful new venture called Narrative 4 begun by writers, artists and educators who are passionate about ‘hearing’ and ‘joining’. Narrative 4 aims to enable teenagers globally to come together to exchange stories as a tool for social change. The exchange is intended to be literal – an ultimate act of reflection. The idea is for the young people to swap stories and then read each other’s stories aloud to one another – to allow words to transcend all differences and thread together human experience.  The stated ethos of Narrative 4 is: 

We believe sharing stories is the key to opening the world. We call it ‘Fearless hope through radical empathy’

I call it inspired.

We all crave an attuned listener. We carry our stories with us deep in our pockets, etched on our hearts, buried in hidden places. Sometimes our stories are legible, easy to read, but sometimes it is as if they are written on the wet wall of a dark cave and we spend years waiting for someone to strike a match.

And when the day finally comes, the sudden exposure can be glaring. The attention can call forth panic, anxiety, shame, trepidation, but ultimately relief. We want to be heard. We need to be seen. And even the small flickering flame from a single match can shed enough light for us to look around and realize that we are not alone with our stories. Sharing our truths is an act of healing.

I’ve experienced this firsthand both as a client and a therapist. Every week in my workshop I listen intently as participants grow brave enough to write their stories and offer them up to the group. We are not there to assess or critique or shape or edit. We are there to listen. People come to Write To Be You to be seen and heard, and to see and hear. I am humbled by the courage of my participants and I am witness to the bonds that powerfully and delicately ‘join’ us through story, encouraging self worth, enabling understanding, embracing recovery.

I am often amazed at how few questions people ask in social situations. Is it that we are bound by decorum not wanting to appear nosey? Or is it that so many people are wrapped  tightly in their own inward facing cocoon that it doesn’t occur to them to reach beyond that and explore another’s landscape?

Questions are essential to social interactions, and yet contemporary technology encourages a ‘me’ centred paradigm where our young people are at risk of becoming voyeurs and not listeners. Let’s encourage curiosity in ourselves and younger generations. Next time you meet someone you don’t know, practice drawing out their story. Be interested. See what you can learn about yourself by listening to someone else.

And while you’re at it, please join me in exploring and supporting Narrative 4 as a dedicated group of individuals step up to link our ever divided world. Personal narratives are thirsty for oxygen, buried within us they can fester and wilt. Now more than ever we need to return to the ancient arts and allow them to work their communal magic alongside technology.

It is not only in recent years that the most essential tales told have gone ‘viral’…  the passage and momentum of storytelling has been with us from the beginning of time. We just need to keep breathing fresh air into stale corners and lighting that match in the darkest of caves.

Read about the origins of Narrative 4 by clicking HERE and visit their website HERE

A writing prompt inspired by Narrative 4: Write about discovering a story on the wall of a cave. Who has been there before you? What is the writing on the wall? Imagine you are illuminated by the light of the match. Tell both of your stories. Give yourself permission to write in fragments, dream images, floating words. Feel your way…

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A Desert Garden

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There is a garden that I pass in my neighbourhood when I walk with Lilly in the mornings. It is a desert garden, punctuated with muted greens, spiky leaves, bursts of yellow and purple, and an array of thorny cacti.

The garden appears on my walk like an oasis. A colourful reef that I want to examine and explore. I am especially enamoured by the landscape because all of these plants grow so beautifully, creating such a magical palette, with very little water.

They grow with a determination – a courage to flourish in spite of being dry.

They grow all year round and serve as a potent reminder to me when I am feeling discouraged, or lazy, or rejected, or low. When I am reading the news and feeling baffled and sad and hopeless. When I am attempting to show an optimistic face to my kids, even though my son’s capacity to navigate three screens (small, medium, large) at any given moment makes me want to wilt. Like a plant with no water. Shrivel. Like a flower without light.

It is at these times that I need to experience that desert garden. In person. Not flashed up as an image to ‘Like’ on Instagram. Not blogged or emailed or linked. I need to feel the texture of those thick flat leaves bewteen my fingertips. I need to lean in closely and investigate the elegant formation of a delicate petal, press my flesh into the point of a cactus needle. I need to pause. Beside the garden.

And see. And touch. And smell and listen.

If  I could, I would invite each and every one of you reading these words to meet me on the corner, so we could gather together and be reminded that growth can still occur in the most unforeseen circumstances. Meaning can blossom. Love can unfurl. Words can be harvested from drought.

But I’m not  so sure how my neighbour would feel about that (I might put a note through their door first!)

So for now – let’s gather here at Write To Be You. Let’s hold out a hand to one another in the form of a story. Let’s prove that healing words can grow from concrete and parched soil. From pavements and dumpsters. From listlessness and doubt.

Our words are seeds. As long as we can share stories – the human spirit will sprout and bloom and our hearts and souls will never be malnourished.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a prompt. I hope you are still with me. Still reading. Still writing. Take a few minutes and share a story today. Write about finding something hopeful where you least expected it or write about a garden that is special to you.

In the weeks to come I will be developing a  ‘Tell Us A Story’ feature where I will share other people’s stories in the main body of the blog. Body of the blog – sounds like a horror film, but I know it will be quite the opposite – it will be pure joy!

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I’m Pushing an Elephant up the Stairs

As many of you know I’m a music fiend, but more accurately a lyric hound. I sniff lyrics out. I delve into them. I immerse myself in lyrics in the same way that I sink into a luscious hot bubble bath at the close of a day.

I just can’t relate when people (okay – I’m naming and shaming my husband here)  say  “I never really listen to the lyrics.”

Really?!  That’s blasphemy to me – like watching Downton Abbey on mute. You miss out on so much of the juicy, nuanced loveliness of the experience.

If you’ve read ‘Playing Along’ then you’ll be familiar with, George, my sweet lead who is a musician and a songwriter.

I believe all characters are a synthesis of fragments  –  actual reflections of the author’s psyche blended with imagined realities. George is part of me. The part of me that loves lyrics. He is the writer in me. The side of myself that doesn’t always like to be ‘looked’ at directly, but attempts to be ‘seen’ through words, and in George’s case – words and music.

This morning while on the school run an old REM song came on the radio. I marvel at how I can’t recall algebraic equations or historical facts from my Freshman year of high school, but throw on an 80’s dance party mix and I have every word to every song committed to memory.

Think of how many lyrics we each have stored in our brains, only for them to arrive promptly on instant recall when the melody releases the trigger. It’s pretty amazing. Perhaps all school lessons should be a collaboration with Duran Duran or One Direction?

But I digress… back to the REM song :

I’m pushing an elephant up the stairs. I’m tossing out punchlines that were never there. Over my shoulder, a piano falls. Crashing to the ground

A gift really, those words. I sang along, remembering what those lines meant to me when I first heard them, but also deriving new meaning in the present moment.

“I’m pushing an elephant up the stairs”  sums up much of the creative process. My daily tackle with writing a second novel – confronting the blocks that rear their ungainly heads, yet remaining determined to convince that elephant to cooperate.

“I’m tossing up punchlines that were never there”  calls to mind how I grapple with writing these blog posts, wondering if what I have to say and how I articulate it still holds interest.

“Over my shoulder, a piano falls, crashing to the ground”  for sure means something to my middle schooler sitting next to me in the car, juggling a pre -adolescent world that is out of her control, loud and unpredictable.

I was so relieved to hear those lyrics and syphon from them the empathy the songwriter wasn’t even aware he was offering. Thank you Mr Stipe.

Songwriting is cathartic – not only for the artist but for the recipient.  Songs are like potent microscopic therapy sessions. Offered for free. Always accessible.  Soulful mirrors. There for the taking.  But most importantly, there for the listening…

On a side note, I am thrilled to be featured as the guest poet this week on Samantha Reynolds’ gorgeous site www.bentlilly.com. Samantha writes a poem a day and hosts one guest each week. Click HERE to read my ‘Creative Diagnosis’.

 

Share your favorite song lyric. Reflect on how the meaning has changed for you over the years. Take ten minutes to write about the impact music has in your life.

OR

Are you writing fiction? Tell me your experience of integrating aspects of self into your characters. I’m always curious – let me know!

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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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Ready, Steady, Write # 16

Photograph by Jeff Rowley

Ride a wave of words
Destination anywhere
A one line caption
A short, short story
A  memory
A dream

Dare to write without stopping yourself
Share on the shore!

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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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Video

That Song

We’ve all been there.  A song comes on the radio and you are transported somewhere immediately.  Some other point in time.  Another place in your life directly connected to ‘that song’.  The memory is visceral and vivid.

You might not recall the details of a conversation you had with someone an hour ago, but when you hear ‘that song’, you not only remember every single lyric, every arc in the melody, but you also recall the very real emotions that accompanied them as well.

Yesterday, this for me was ‘that song’

Classic 80s.  Took me right back to being with my best friend K.E.L. our ears pressed against my older sister’s bedroom door as she played this song on her cassette player over and over again.  She was 16 and had a boy in her room. A cute boy.  We were not sixteen and we were dying to know what it felt like to be in her shoes.  I was wearing white shorts and a baggy yellow tank top with the words RELAX emblazoned in black letters on the front. My long hair was pulled into a high ponytail with bangs/fringe back combed meticulously, sprouting forth like a tangled fountain.  K.E.L. had silky brown hair cut in a bob, braces, scuffed keds and the magical ability to make me laugh so hard I thought I would pee in my pants.  The tiles in the bathroom I shared with my sister were teal green and some of them had colourful exotic fish embossed onto them – decor inherited from the previous owner.  My lipstick was opalescent pink.  I was filled with curiosity and envy. My sister’s perfume was Anais Anais, a sickly sweet fragrance with pale, soft petaled flowers adorning the bottle.

Details.  They came tumbling at me avalanche style the moment I heard ‘that song’.

It’s all in the details.

What is ‘that song’ for you?  Have you heard it recently? Can you find it and listen to it.  Open your mind and heart up to all the particulars of the time it takes you to.  Write down the details.  The more the better.  No matter how trivial.  Keep your pen moving as you take a journey in your time machine.  Listen to it one more time.  You might be surprised at what else comes back to you.

Write for at least ten minutes.  Longer if you wish.

Bon voyage!