Tag Archives: emotions

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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PLAYING ALONG – A Path to a Smile

cover design by Olivia Frisbie

For those of you who have been following me for a little while, you will know that I am on the brink of self publishing my novel, ‘Playing Along’.

Well actually I’ve been on the brink of self publishing my novel for the last six months. My husband will tell you that I became distracted, like when I’m folding the laundry, only to stop mid fold and wander off to write an email or wash up one or two dishes. I can’t actually tolerate doing all the dishes at the same time. The truth is – some of the dishes annoy me. Especially the wooden spoons whose cracking faces encrusted with dried up scrambled egg stare at me doltishly. I’m ashamed to admit I often ignore the wooden spoons.

“You see,” says my husband, “You’ve done it again. You began by talking about the book, but now you’re onto eggs and spoons.”

And he’s right. I do wander. When life tries to squeeze me into a rigid framework, I internally rebel. I meander through fields in my head threading daisy chains and gazing at the clouds making shapes in the sky – ice cream cones, sleeping hippos, floating binoculars. I might be  driving around the city looking relatively organised and together, conversing with teachers and cashiers, brushing my hair, but inside I’m laconic. Messy. A little bit looney. Inside I’m lazy in a lovely sort of way.

Stitching stories from bits and pieces. Missing steps.

Ahh yes, my book. I’m almost there. I promise. Even as I type this, the manuscript sits beside me waiting to be proofread – again. I’ve proofread this bloody book so many times that I no longer see the mistakes. They have become the fabric of the text -little lurking blemishes.

But every time I re-read it I still have to physically restrain myself from tweezing and tweaking. Nipping and tucking. Adding and subtracting. It’s hell. At this stage of formatting, if I make any more changes I pay for them. So all I really need to do is sign it off and deliver it into the ready and waiting arms of Amazon.

It’s that simple right? I let it go. With love and trust.

Like sending an eighteen year old off on his gap year.

“Don’t lose your back pack!”

“Call me!”

“Wash!”

“Come back altered…”

Because that’s what happens when you let something go. It changes. Once my book leaves my clutches it becomes less about me and more about you – the reader. I’m entrusting you to take an interest. To write a kind review. To be bothered. To be amused. And in doing so, my book is no longer ‘my’ book but it hopefully becomes one of ‘your’ books. A story that you drink up and enjoy. A path to a smile.

I keep reading scary self publishing articles telling me I need to know exactly who my reader is. I need to be extremely clear about who this book was written for. I need to target my tribe and deliver the goods – or else. Or else what? If I’m lucky I sell twenty copies, maybe twenty-one if the receptionist at my dentist is feeling sorry for me and buys two – one for her and one for her daughter who is also the receptionist at my dentist.

The pressure is suffocating. No wonder I’m still glancing guiltily at my manuscript and writing about eggs instead.

Who did I write the book for?

For me. For my sister who is a sucker for a good old fashioned romance and went to a Keane concert and came home convinced that the Tom Chaplin was singing a song directly to her. She planted the seed. George and Lexi were born and I delivered them to her in short email installments every week. Except for the weeks when I became distracted by spoons, or eggs, or daisy chains.

So if I do in fact have a tribe ‘out there’ I don’t yet know who they are.

Maybe you can help. Maybe you can read ‘Playing Along’ when I eventually send it on its way with clean socks and underwear and a disposable camera. I’m really truly hoping that I’ll be done being distracted very soon and that will result in you being able to buy my book in January. Please do!

Be part of this adventure. Be the friend that my book meets on that infamous gap year. Take a picture of yourself reading it. Send it to me. Tell another friend to do the same.

I’ll be here writing the sequel. Once the washing up is finished. Well – some of it – anyway.

At this point it only seems fair to give you (drum roll please!) THE BLURB!

Meet George and Lexi. They’ve been waiting

Two Lives. Two Continents. One Song…

Then: George Bryce was an awkward, English schoolboy fantasizing about being in a band.

Now: George is frontman of Thesis, an overnight indie scene sensation. Intense, creative and self-deprecating, his childhood dreams have all been fulfilled – so why does George still feel so lost?

Then: Lexi Jacobs was a confident Californian high school cheerleader, planning her future marriage and a meaningful career.

Now: Lexi is searching for substance in a life full of mishaps. Cautious, bemused and rapidly losing the control she used to rely on, none of her teenage dreams have delivered and she’s left wondering, “What next?”

Follow George and Lexi as they navigate their days thousands of miles apart. Fly with them from London to LA and back again, as George copes with the dynamics of his tight knit band and loose knit family, while Lexi juggles her eccentric new boss, bored best friend and smother mother.

Even though there’s an ocean between them and their worlds couldn’t be further apart, George and Lexi are pulled together through music, and their paths appear determined to cross.

The question is – when?

At the end of this delightfully quirky, irresitable book, you too will be left wondering which of your fantasies are destined to come true…

Stay tuned!

 

Do you have a seed that needs planting? What distracts you? Reflect on setting your mind to something and see what feelings come up.

We all have wonderful imaginations, but often they play the biggest role in attempting to stop us from watering our precious seeds. We become professionals at inventing all the reasons why our seed will never grow, before we’ve even begun tending it.

Write for 10 minutes. See what sprouts!

I’d love to hear from you…

 

 

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I Choose

photo by Kaileen Elise

Here’s a story. It belongs to me. I choose how I want to tell it.

Our house was broken into last week while my daughter and I were sleeping and my husband and son were out. When my husband came home, he noticed our computers were missing and he woke me up. Our sliding door was wide open downstairs – a cold breeze chilling our living space. I started to shake at the thought of someone entering our house as we slept upstairs. I started to berate my husband for leaving the door unlocked. I felt violated. Unsafe. Invaded. I went upstairs to check on my kids and looked into an upstairs bathroom on the way. I came face to face in the shadows with the intruder. He was tall and obscured. We froze in front of one another for a terrifying second and I thought, “This is it.”

I screamed, as loud as I could, no words, just a high shrill call – a frantic plea to press the rewind button on life – to take this moment away. The man ducked in front of me and ran. My husband, with no thought but to protect us, chased him downstairs yelling at him to “get the f*** out of our house”. The guy dropped all three of our laptops on the ground. He yelled back at my husband, “I’m sorry!” And with that fleeting admittance of remorse, he was gone, out of our door, flying silently over our 6 foot high gate.

We were left shocked. Trembling. Looking around our home and questioning whether that really just happened. Our security had been trespassed. Not just literally but figuratively too.  This quiet shadow of a man had already snuck into my psyche and taken up residence. I could feel him bedding down, preparing to pounce out at me from every dark corner for days on end. Preparing to lurk in the shady shrubs of my mind when the sun sets. Preparing to ambush my sense of wellbeing with a steely determination.

After the police left, I went to bed that night with my eyes wide open, my daughter nestled next to me and an unwelcome presence hovering in our home. It was hard not to imagine all the things that ‘could have’ unfolded. All the dangers that ‘might have’ been.

When I woke up the following morning after a fitful night, it occurred to me that I had a choice. I could allow this man to move in permanently – my anxious state of mind creating a hospitable environment for all the ways he could mess with our lives. Or I could choose to set a different scene. A scene that wouldn’t be so conducive to his menacing ways.

I could choose to feel lucky. He wasn’t armed. He didn’t hurt us. He didn’t even manage to get away with our computers.

I could choose to feel compassion. He was clearly desperate to risk entering a house with lights on and a car in the drive. My husband said when he ran from our home, he looked as petrified as us.

I could choose to feel amusement. We were blessed with the most polite thief one could imagine. He apologized. It was as if in the moment he had a revelation:  “This is not okay. This was not the right option.” He was, thankfully and ironically, a gentleman. A gentle man. In these situations, that is never a given.

As I walked through our home a day later with a bundle of lit sage wafting aromatic smoke into the air, I felt like a snake charmer. I held the secrets. I held the power and there was no way I was going to allow our uninvited visitor to take that away from me. The sharp scented smoke cleared the air and cleared my mind. The word “HELP” floated into my head. But it wasn’t me looking for help – it was a recognition of the help needed to realign him – the shadow presence who had appeared and disappeared in the dark.

I truly hope he finds a better way.

Meanwhile, I am grateful for my developing internal democracy. It is too tempting to allow our ‘stories’ to fuel anarchy in our hearts – to tell them in ways that only serve to curtail our emotional freedom.

I embrace the choice I am making to relay this particular story from another angle, rather than attaching myself to the drama and the fear. Order has been restored, and when I lock our doors at night, I do so with the intention of securing in peace, not with the purpose of perpetuating panic. Try saying that after a few drinks!

Think of the ‘stories’ you repeatedly tell in your life. Are you defining yourself by a story that you could revision? Do you find yourself focusing in on the drama and fast forwarding through the joy? Share an example of this and take time to reflect.

OR

Write for ten minutes using the words “I choose…” as a springboard. Try starting each line with those two words and push through resistance. You might be surprised by what is revealed…

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The Small Print

The US election is breathing heavily. The air is charged. Last week Halloween equalized us… we were all pounding the pavements watching out for our kids and trusting our neighbours to treat them well. This week we are scowling at cars with ‘bad’ bumper stickers and steering clear of houses with the ‘other’ sign perched proudly on their front lawn.

I understand that safety comes in numbers. We look for our ‘likeness’ in others to find protection and common ground. We make assumptions and assessments based on who has checked the same boxes as we have. But boxes can be a burden, especially those that pile high without ever getting the chance to be unpacked.

Democracy is essential but it comes with a list of side effects. Check the small print.

May experience narrow mindedness. Might cause rash generalizations. Beware of jaded judgements. 

If our society continues to rely on categorization to define one another, we are at risk of being stripped of our individuality. Our unique quirks. The ridges on our fingertips that render us particular.

Elections, by their very nature, encourage stark polarization, which as a general rule is best avoided. In my ideal world, a balanced dialogue would take precedent. All politicians would explore vs. explode. Politics would be more like a high school debate club and less like opposing sides at a rivalrous sports event.

Surely we want our younger generations to grow up curious and interested in every dimension of a human being, rather than learning early on how to perilously pigeonhole?

But I guess each of us has a different fantasy of an ‘ideal’ world.

It’s easy to be pulled in by all the ways we are similar – what’s far more challenging is to take time to delineate how we are different, and still remain open to cultivating connection.*

*Some restrictions may apply!

 

How are you bound by the boxes you check? Do you belong to a category that you are tired of being defined by? OR Use the word DIFFERENCE as a springboard and jump from there. Write for ten minutes. I’m here waiting to catch your words…

See you at the polls!

 

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A Really Scary Story

Remember this 90s classic by World Party?

Put the message in the box, Put the box into the car, Drive the car around the world, Until you get heard

I love that song. Whenever I hear it I want to sing the chorus loudly. And there is no better time than now, when the election is around the corner and there are many messages fighting to be heard – wrestling for our attention.

In the midst of election mania I was lucky enough to be invited by a friend to see a screening of a documentary this week.

The film, Miss Representation, made by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, exposes how mainstream media offers young girls an extremely narrow, often over-sexualized view of who they ‘should’ be in the world. Jennifer believes this limited portrayal has contributed to the lack of women seeking positions of leadership and power, and sabotages the developing self-esteem of many young girls, bombarded constantly by a barrage of distorted images and messages.

I couldn’t agree more.

I felt extremely emotional watching the film, which is intelligently narrated and edited and includes fascinating interviews with women who have held influential positions, like Condoleeza Rice and Nancy Pelosi, as well as teenagers on the frontline.

The film is relevant to me because I am raising a 12-year-old daughter who is lodged firmly in the demographic much of this advertising and programming is aimed at. But I am also raising a 14-year-old boy, who is vulnerable because his responses and ideas of women are potentially being shaped by this insidious onslaught.

Let’s face it – this film is relevant to everyone.

Magazines are plastered with pictures of young girls draped in women’s clothing, often sickly thin and posed provocatively. Girls and women are still frequently depicted in advertising, mainstream films, TV, and music videos as sexual objects whose primary purpose is to attract men. Overweight girls and women are continually mocked and reduced to caricatures.

Reality TV pits women against one another encouraging ‘cat fights’ and  ‘bitch bashing’. And entertainment shows and magazines exert excessive amounts of time and energy into picking apart celebrity’s bodies and fashion sense – including women in politics – the small minority of females who actually do hold leadership positions in government.

This documentary is a bright red flag. A piercing siren. A disturbing alarm. And one that should be heard by everyone. I commend Jennifer for challenging the system and asking us to pay attention. She really is putting the message in the box and driving the car around the world.

I am concerned that girls are being dislocated from their sexuality as an instinctual sense of self, and relocating their sexual identity solely in how they are perceived by men. This has massive consequences for both genders, and is being fuelled by many media avenues. The results are widespread and devastating contributing to bullying, depression, under achieving, eating disorders, addiction – the list goes on.

There are people responsible for making these decisions based on revenue rather than ethics. We do need to take a stand. This could be a boldly brazen soapbox – let’s step up – join forces – gather momentum!

Miss Representation has not had a cinematic release, but you can contact Jennifer and arrange for a screening. She also runs educational programs for middle and high schools. Recently she has spearheaded a campaign on Twitter #notbuyingit, targeting companies who are using sexualized images of women/girls to sell products. Spirit Halloween is one of the companies she outed for promoting seductive costumes for ‘tween’ girls, suggesting that wearing the tiny ensembles will make them more attractive to boys.

It’s human nature isn’t it?  When the time is right, boys and girls will get crushes on either gender. Trying to accelerate the process by dressing girls up as little seductresses is the scariest Halloween story yet.

Get involved: http://www.missrepresentation.org

 

Today I’m asking you to take a few minutes to visit the Miss Representation website, watch the trailer and notice how you feel.

Write down your response. Whether you are male or female, gay or straight, I want to hear how you are impacted by some of the issues raised in the film.

What’s your take? Were you affected by these issues growing up? How have times changed? Are you a parent watching your children affected now? Are you a teenager becoming aware of the impact?

Write about it. Crystalize your thoughts. Rant or reflect. Join me in this important dialogue…

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Behind the Bully

I’ve been reading too many stories about bullying recently. Shocking tales of young people driven to distraction by relentless torment. Heart crushing accounts of teenagers posting videos on YouTube detailing their harassment and hours later taking their own lives.

It’s a sickening and tragic truth.

Bullying has now extended beyond the home and school day and found a toxic and fertile breeding ground on the Internet. This means that perpetrators have access to their victims 24/7 and victims can literally never catch their breath. The Internet, as we all know, is not a cozy corner. It’s a wide-open forum where abusers can roam freely, while those being abused can feel utterly exposed and unprotected.

This is not a new landscape, but it is one where new avenues appear daily. Adults provide the tools to build unpoliced neighbourhoods, and then we allow our children to access all areas. When disaster strikes, which it inevitably will, we hold up our hands and ask “How did that happen?”

This is how it happens.

We are not born bullies. I do believe that we are born with personalities, with predilections, with potential, but the path those elements take is shaped by our environment.

We learn behaviours as we grow.

As children we consciously and unconsciously model the adults who punctuate our days. If those adults move through the world expressing intolerance and distaste for difference, then why should we be expected to do otherwise? If those adults do not show us kindness, compassion, understanding and love, then how can we develop those qualities in ourselves?

Children who experience attacking parents and frequent battlegrounds in their formative years become adept at creating defense strategies.

They harden their tenderness.They mimic. They armour. They collect an arsenal of emotional artillery and choose to either withdraw and baton down the hatches, or fight back.

If they can’t fight back at home for fear of retaliation, they fight back out in the world. They fire rounds of harassment on someone’s Facebook page. They empower themselves by bullying others. They target weakness in their peers, which in reality is a reflection of the weakness they feel within.

The perpetrator more often than not has lived as a victim. And so the cycle continues….

Why has it become so difficult to break this cycle? Because the ‘bully’  has been internalized. It’s an effort to show genuine kindness and compassion to another human being if we can’t even show it to ourselves.

And in order to harbour self-compassion, we need to have been taught how to do so in our youth. We commonly learn ways to be ‘hard on ourselves’  but being ‘soft’ doesn’t garner equal attention.

Emotional Literacy should be a compulsory class in all National Curriculums, in all schools, and then maybe we can start raising a generation of children who will blossom into parents capable of making these vital connections… capable of breaking the cycle.

Sadly it’s evident  that society’s bullying mentality isn’t going away anytime soon, but if continued dialogue can save even one child or one teenager from the fate of becoming either the victim or the perpetrator – or both – then surely it’s worth persisting?

Write about bullying. What are your thoughts on this post? Were you bullied as a child or teenager? Do you have a story to tell? Are you a bully to yourself? Let’s open up the dialogue…

Share in the comments…

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A Wish for My Daughter

Photograph by Boudist

My daughter turned twelve this week. I remember twelve.  Something about twelve made me want to linger. Maybe it was because I knew it was my last year before lurching into teenagedom. Somehow at twelve stickers and stuffed animals still seemed acceptable, but at thirteen the pressure to try and grow up was on. And that was in the 1980’s, the decade of yuppies and excess hair and ridiculous shoulder pads and fluorescent fashion explosions.

Strange how compared to today, the 1980’s appear relatively innocent and naive… it’s as if our lives pre-Internet have become equivalent to the times of a horse drawn carriage. Quaint. Simple. Charming. In the 80’s I could impress friends when I travelled home to London over summers, bringing back with me a treasure trove of cassettes – UK bands that no one in LA had heard of yet. That was serious kudos.

Sadly kudos is harder to come by today. Everyone knows everything about everyone and everything. My children have been exposed to a barrage of images and information much sooner than I would have ever hoped for. So I resisted my 12 year old’s plea for her dad’s old iPhone, and for her 12th Birthday present I took her to see Florence and The Machine at The Hollywood Bowl instead.

And it was pure joy.

For those who know me and for those who have been reading this blog from the beginning, you will recall that I LOVE Florence Welch and her Machine. She is a truly exceptional role model for young girls and women. She’s gentle and fierce. Strong and vulnerable. Expressive and Free. Dramatic and real. She whirls across the stage like a magical nymph and has a voice like an angel. She weaves stories and tells truths through her lyrics. She asks the audience to move. She requested that all 18,000 of us jumped. And we did. I held tight to my twelve year old’s hand and we jumped as high as we could. And we sung. And we smiled. Florence gave us permission to play!

And I threw a wish into the stars. A wish for my daughter:

That she can hold onto twelve while it lasts.

That even though she is growing in an age that is so far from innocent, that somehow she will still seek out the mystical moments of delight that cannot be delivered via a screen.

That she will mature into a teenager and a woman who is not afraid to embrace the child she was once was. The child she is now.

That she will always feel free enough to jump with abandon.

Who knows what the future holds? She too may look back at twelve and reminisce about the clunky gadgets she used to long for.

“When I was your age we had an archaic gizmo called the iPhone. We all wanted one. Those were the days…”

What was your decade? Share a memory from when you were twelve. OR write for ten minutes using the word WISH as a springboard.

I hope to see you in the comments section! Thank you for joining me here at Write To Be You. I am tremendously grateful for your support and presence…

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“Who Still Serves Consomme?”

Last week I wrote about holding onto conflicted feelings and my best friend, Karen, shared this beautiful response:

I just spent two hours ripping through dusty boxes from a storage unit that we finally emptied after ignoring it for seven years. I came across some treasures. The kind you love, but you can also live without, and even totally forget ever existed. I found my children’s tiny hand prints dipped in paint and made to look like turkeys for thanksgiving day. I wanted to keep them and throw them out all at the same time. Same with my grandmother’s china. What will I ever do with eight gold plated consomme bowls and matching saucers? Who still serves consomme? I wanted to smash them to the ground at the same time I was holding them gently up to the light appreciating their delicate craftsmanship. If all this had burned in a fire I would have been better off. Now I’m having to decided where it all goes. Recycling, the shredder, the thrift store, my already full kitchen shelves? Or worse, back in the box to live in our basement.

My favorite line in her response was “Who still serves consomme?”

It struck me as so funny and so accurate. I have actually also been sifting through ‘old stuff’ recently in an attempt to liberate some space in my garage. I stumbled across a once precious journal, tied tightly with bright coloured ribbons – a silver unicorn dancing on the cover. The pages were heavy with heartache. The pain of trying to fit in. The blinding intensity of middle school and high school friendships. The longing for the life I felt I ‘should’ be living. Excruciating analysis both of myself and every person around me (perhaps a precursor to the psychotherapy route I would choose as an adult!)

Scattered amongst the words were concert ticket stubs and carefully transcribed lyrics.  From that tender age, I found empathy in music and I found release in writing. That hasn’t changed about me. But many other things have, and as I flicked through my journal, I understood on a deep level that it was time to let it go… or in Karen’s words, who still serves consomme?

Research has proven that writing down our emotions can be hugely cathartic. But the act alone can be enough. Revisiting those feelings repeatedly in the future or exposing those feelings unintentionally to people they might wound or confuse isn’t useful. 

My revelations were written for no one else to see. That journal was my private refuge, and leaving it lurking around in my garage for my children to discover one day felt like a betrayal to my middle school self. That book served a purpose at a certain time in my life, but that purpose has long since expired.

So I photographed a few key pages. I kissed the cover.  And I set that unicorn free!

The next morning I thought I might regret this brazen act of pack rat defiance.

But I didn’t.

I have been writing profusely since I could use a pen. I have written journals and letters and cards and fiction and poetry and short stories and articles and blogs and essays and a dissertation and a novel. I hope to write thousands of more words to come – but do I need to preserve every one of those words?

No.

Sometimes there can be tremendous value in the process taking precedent over the product.

If you want to explore the subject of ‘letting go’ further, please visit a fellow writer and blogger, Erin Kurup, at her site remadebyhand.com – she is an inspiring role model!

Are you a word hoarder?! If so, I am giving you permission to divest yourself of some of those words which might be weighing you down. I’m guessing this is a controversial topic! But why not give it a try? Create a ritual. Tear up an old journal, school essay or half baked short story. This non attachment will also help you tackle the editing process. OR try writing something now that you never want anyone to see, ever, and then delete it immediately or burn it. Notice how you feel…

Report back, and in the meantime – thoughts on this post? I’m curious to know where you stand?

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Ready, Steady, Write #22

Reflect on this image

Notice what comes into your mind…

a story? a poem? a memory? a stream of thoughts?

Pay attention to the texture of your emotions

focused and blurred

Write for ten minutes

Share your response to the prompt

(before you press submit comment, please click on the requested fruit and help me keep up the fight against spam!)

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Something New

I learned something new last week. Stand-up paddleboarding. It’s one of those beguiling activities I’ve admired from afar and thought to myself that it looked simple enough. Not much to it. Stand. Paddle. Glide across the surface of the water looking elegant. Engage your core. Appear serene, cool and unruffled. It was catalogued in my brain as one of those things I might try one day. When I had the time.

And then suddenly I had the time. Or should I say the time had me.

Saying no to the invitation to learn would have been a red flag. Flapping in the wind. Reminding me that I’m not taking as many risks as I am continually urging my readers to take. Expose your self! Write when you don’t feel like it! Be honest! Stop waiting! Be spontaneous! Try something that makes you sweat!

PADDLEBOARD!

And so I pull on my board shorts and I follow my eleven year old daughter down the dock at the marina (“If I’m  trying it, Mum – you’re trying it too!)

I listen attentively as the super chilled out instructor talks us through positions, launching and how to hold your paddle. I feel momentarily confident. What’s the worst thing that can happen? I fall in?  I get wet? Big deal.  All great lessons involve failed attempts.

And then my husband makes a crack about teaching me to ride a bike when I was twenty. The instructor probably thinks he’s joking.

He’s not.

I laugh along, but inside I cower.

Inside I’m fourteen again. Freshman year school trip in Yosemite National Park. Surrounded by 80 new faces. The first activity of the week is a cycle ride across the valley. The humiliating memory washes over me like a polluted wave. How do I explain that I’ve reached the 9th grade and I  still don’t know how to ride a bike? How do I make adequate excuses for my uncoordinated body? My fear of falling? My stubborn certainty that I am weird? Incapable?

I try and kick the memory to the curb. I try to forget my fourteen year old self who couldn’t cycle, and my twenty year old self who struggled trying. But even as I crawl tenatatively onto the board from the dock, my younger selves sit on the side in the sunshine, their legs dangling in the water. They’re not going anywhere. They look concerned because they know today I am a mother. Today I need to be a role model.

I glance at my daughter who is also floating on her knees, silently trying to summon her brave self. Her father and her cousin, seasoned boarders, are offering advice, but I have a feeling she is waiting for me.

It’s time to stand up. It’s time to balance. It’s time to try something new.

At this point my head is determined to be a grown-up, but my knees are stuck in the past. My knees refuse to cooperate as I ease myself into a standing position. They wobble. They tremble. They violently shake. If they had words, they would be yelling “Go back to solid ground. This is not for you. You’re going to make a fool of yourself!”

I look over at my daughter, who is looking over at me.

“I can’t stand up!” she says. But behind her I see my younger selves who are now standing up, cheering me on, willing me to succeed. “You don’t have to be like us!” they say. ‘You don’t have to stay the same forever.”

And I hear them.

And I begin to calm down.

And I listen to the instructor who seems to have been born gliding on the water. And his voice makes me feel safe. And my knees get with the program. And eventually I stand with more stability. And I paddle. And I’m still shaking but he tells me that’s normal. And in this moment I like the word normal, even though I have recently been wrestling with it.

And when I look over at my daughter she is standing too. Paddling with magical ease. Smiling at a sea lion.

I turn to thank my younger selves but they have disappeared.  I guess they knew their job was done.

So I just keep paddling. Feeling serene, cool, unruffled. Enjoying the light glinting on the water. Marvelling at how poessesive our pasts can be if we allow them to grip us too tightly, and celebrating the joys of learning something new.

Write for ten minutes using the words Something New as a springboard.

or

Reflect on past experiences that hinder your present. Can you loosen your grip on the past and keep growing? Keep going…

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