Tag Archives: feelings

Have Patience With Passion

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

Ba boom ba boom!

Photograph by Kai Hendry (Creative Commons)

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

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

So what’s the answer if you feel passionless?

Patience.

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

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

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

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

 

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Hold Me Now

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

A powerful affirmation of emotional bonds.

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

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Get It Write

“I’m interested in doing your workshop but the idea of writing intimidates me…” 

I’ve heard this often. It seems the very act of picking up a pen and relaying thoughts and feelings can become burly & threatening, like a school bully who syphons power by frightening others. Sadly, very often that ‘bully’ has been frightened themselves and when they can access help or understanding, there is the potential to deactivate the charge.

So how do we make sense of why the idea of writing is scaring so many people?

Here lies my answer. For many years, traditional western education has hijacked writing and twisted it into something unnecessarily menacing. Something that needs to be done ‘correctly’. Something that will result in a mark or grade that is judged by an outsider – a source of authority. This leaves very little room to embrace the wayward and unruly workings of our human minds. This leaves absolutely no room to celebrate unconventional structures such as:

Outside. Bounce. Bounce. That ball doesn’t never ever stop. STOP. bounce. Bounce.  In my brain. Slam dunking my words away from the train of thought I am riding. With my head out the window. Like a dog. Sniffing. Ears flapping, listening. Absorbing worlds of. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

In recent years the foundations have been shifting, but in 1979 that wouldn’t have earned me an ‘A’ anywhere, especially not in England. In my early education, creativity was shackled with strict limitations.  Apparently we were only allowed to light up the right side of our brains (the creative centre) in nursery school or art class. Even then I have recollections of the teacher removing the brush from my hand and painting over my canvas, in a concerted effort to show me how to ‘improve’.

It’s not a shocker that twenty or thirty years later many people cower from the prospect of trying something just for the hell of it. Letting words out of the enclosure. Giving sentences permission to roam lawlessly. To soar high. To float gently.

In reality, it is not the act of writing that scares us but the external judge, who currently occupies our inner landscapes, ruling the domain with unmerciful glee.

What do I say to those prospective participants – the ones who are drawn towards the workshops but who feel intimidated?

Face the bully! 
Straighten your shoulders! 
Stick your tongue out! 
Hold up a shameless finger and kick the gate open!

There are acres of gorgeous ground to cover. Wasted wooly woodlands filled with creative possibility. Magical truth tunnels. Whispering story trees. And the written word is waiting to lead you on your own guided tour.

So don’t write to please ‘them’ – they have their own issues to tackle. Don’t try and get it ‘right’ because ‘right’ is a moveable feast.

The solution is delightfully simple.
You guessed it… Write To Be You.

Start here! Start Now! Share a spontaneous response to this post. Can be anything… a personal account, a fictional story, a tangled net of words. Share anonymously if that feels safer. Work up to declaring your name. Reinvent or reconnect. Find freedom through your words…

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Ready, Steady, Write # 11

Illustration by Sarajo Frieden

Forge a relationship
With this image
Tell us a story
Write
About
It
Share
The writing
love

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The Games We Played

Growing up in the 70’s & 8o’s we always had one cupboard stuffed with board games. Piled up boxes splitting at the corners and bulging at the seams because the components had been hurriedly shoved inside at the close of the previous encounter. There was no replicating that first fresh glimpse of a new board game… everything sitting pristinely in its own compartment… obediently claiming a space.

The plastic playing pieces separated from the dice next to the the cards immaculately ordered with satisfying straight edges next to the board folded perfectly at the crease sitting neatly on top of the marbles or the straws or the money arranged by amount and colour or the spinner with the arrow still firmly intact.

After that very first ‘opening’ inevitable packaging chaos ensued. It didn’t matter how hard you tried… things would never fit back into that box in quite the same way ever again.

But that was all part of the fun.

Little did I know that the many hours wiled away playing those games were prepping me for my uncertain future as an adult.

TWISTER – awkward entanglements.

MONOPLOY- property dilemmas (should we or shouldn’t we?) and the terrifying white envelopes containing those first bills (Really? I have NO money in the bank? Didn’t I just pass GO??)

CLUEDO (CLUE in the USA) – the toxicity of gossip and the constant speculation about the lives of others, “Do you really think Miss Scarlet did it in the kitchen with the led pipe? Just last week we were hanging out in the library with Professor Plum and she was going on and on about the candlestick. Who knew?!”

OPERATION – the confirmation of my lack of hand/eye co-ordination and my leaning towards psychotherapy. All I really wanted was to ask that poor, naked guy, “So tell me, how do you feel about this relentless bodily intrusion?”

MASTERMIND –  how to communicate with people who like to keep things hidden.

FRUSTRATION (TROUBLE in the USA) – the reminder that  life is just one great big pop-o-matic dome and you can waste forever wishing for a 6. Even so… your only choice is to keep on popping.

CONNECT FOUR – the satisfaction when things fall into place.

And finally KER PLUNK – my most beloved game. Ker Plunk taught me that sometimes you just have to take a risk. Pull that straw. Hold your breath.

And wait to hear the marbles…

What memories do you have of board games you played as a child? Write for ten minutes. Roll the dice and see what arrives… share in the comments!

 

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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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Strangling Stereotypes

Photograph by Chloe Green 2012

Meeting someone at a party or social occasion and revealing to them that you’ve trained to be a psychotherapist, usually evokes a discernible reaction.

Not always a pleasant one.

Scenarios I’ve encountered:

The Escape Artist likely to be thinking, “Oh dear god, get me away from her quickly! She’s definitely  dull, eerily earnest, and will probably spend the whole evening analysing my every move.”

The Dissenter“Isn’t psychotherapy merely a self indulgent pursuit with the sole intent of avoiding accountability and blaming your parents for everything?”

The Macho Man, “I talk sports, stocks, sex and statistics in no apparent order. Feelings are for females.”

The Veteran, “Been there. Done that. Have had sixteen therapists since I was sixteen. I know so much I could be YOUR therapist.  I mean – seriously!”

And finally The Virgin, “Wow! That’s amazing! It must be fate that I ended up meeting you tonight, because I’ve always thought about seeing a therapist and I have like a million stories that I think you’re going to be really interested in…”
One of the first clients I ever treated was a woman about 20 years older than me.  When I entered the waiting room to greet her, she dropped her jaw in disbelief.

“The therapy is with YOU?” 

I’m not sure what she was expecting. Maybe a few more wrinkles. A flowing cardigan and jade beads. I obviously didn’t meet her expectation of what a ‘proper’ therapist was supposed to look like.  She held a stereotype in her head, as we all have the tendancy to do.  Sometimes it is much easier to summarise people in one dimension (like I  have playfully done with my party goers above) than to stay receptive to the complexity of  all human beings, regardless of race, gender, nationality, religion, and even profession.

Stereotypes strangle.

It turned out that despite being in my thirties, with a leaning towards Death Cab for Cutie and a cupboard full of skinny jeans, I was still a good listener. And the client eventually realized that.

Writing and Psychotherapy require similar skills. If you are writing fiction, you owe it to your characters not to sum them up in a sentence (as fun and easy as that can be) Your characters should become your clients.  They need to be the ones at the party, keeping you in the corner, spilling their histories. Stay curious. Keep your ears open. Observe their body language and their gestures. Find out about their parents.  It does matter Mr Dissenter – I promise.

And if you are writing about yourself, then you have the pleasure and the pain of internal investigation. The two endeavours are bursting with benefits. And while each come with a handful of hazards, ultimately they share the same joyful purpose: to artfully activate transformation, leaving the recipient altered and opened, in ways both subtle and sweeping.

Write about stereotypes. Are you stereotyped in your world? Have you encountered obstacles as a result? OR Write about writing. What are your tricks for ‘fleshing’ out your characters? How do you avoid the pitfalls of flat packing and build more dimensional creatures instead? SHARE YOUR FINDINGS HERE! I’m the Good Listener, remember?!
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Finding Fortune

My father has been dead for many years, but if I were to glance up and find him sitting on my couch, legs propped on my coffee table, swearing at a Lakers game, I would not be shocked.

He might be physically absent from my world, but he still lives with me, like all the other members of my family.  He occupies a space within.  A space reserved just for him.  And from that space he looks at me with love.  Brings me a glass of water in the middle of the night.  Marvels at the humour and the height of the grandson he never met. Smiles at the wisdom of the granddaughter who keeps a photograph of him on her desk. And tells me, in that way he had of telling me, all the words he still wants me to hear.

His voice is clear. Deep. A Philly drawl sprinkled with twenty years in London. He says things like:
“Did you get a load of that kid?” (usually referring to a forty-five year old man)
“The sun is shining, it’s a beautiful day – what more could I want?” (this after he left London)
“Jesus Christ!” ( loudly under his breath, not worshipping, but condemning any unsuspecting fellow diner who dared sneeze too close to him in a restaurant).

And the one that stays with me the most, like the surprising slip of a fortune that you carry home from dinner in your pocket and tape optimistically to your mirror, “The worst thing that ever happened to me turned out to be the best…”

I loved those words.  I still do.

My father repeated those words when I was forced to wear an embarrassing patch over the left lens of my glasses.  When I didn’t get elected for middle school student body president (and he had designed all of the campaign posters). When the short waiter with the limited vocabulary stamped on my heart.  When I was rejected from my first choice university. He didn’t live long beyond my university years, but his words continue to resonate.

For him that tenant was tried and true. His greatest professional failure led him to escape across the Atlantic, where he reinvented himself, fell in love with my mother, and had the family he never imagined he would at the age of fifty – the best.

When a promising opportunity I felt certain would materialise, disintegrated painfully at the end of last year, my father’s words floated into my head.  There he was, comfortable on my couch, chin propped on his hand, reassuring me.  Life doesn’t always take you where you want it to.  Destinies have a way of swerving and revealing views you never imagined encountering.  Stay open.  Stay receptive.  “The worst thing that ever happened to me turned out to be the best, kid”.  I know those words inevitably won’t always ring true; life is infinitely complicated and often brutal. But I’m still listening. Still hopeful. I still want to believe for all of us that shadows can shape shift, letting in light where you least expect it.

Do my father’s words hold any meaning for you?

What is written on your crumpled fortune cooke slips?  Whose words stay with you when you really need to hear them, and how have they reverberated in your life?

Be brave and share your stories – they are the fragments that make you whole. Write down whatever arrives and welcome in the person who passed them on.

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Golden Goldberg

Natalie Goldberg, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is an extraordinary woman who paints, writes and guides others in their writing practice.  When I was twenty, I discovered her book “Writing Down the Bones” and devoured it.  The experience was delectable.  Her pages were full of wisdom, ideas and permission. While enticing me to write down the bones, she crawled under my skin.  Natalie has written many wonderful books since then, but it was that book that remained with me for years, until I was lucky enough to participate in one of her workshops in Taos, New Mexico in 2010.

The workshop consisted of yoga sessions, writing sessions and enforced silences.  I say ‘enforced’ because while I crave it often, silence does not always come easily to me.  I fill up my space with sound. I love my music. I talk to Lilly (my dog). I bore my husband with daily minutia. I like to chit chat on the phone. I ask my kids too many questions when I pick them up from school. I even talk to myself. All that commotion before anyone else has managed to join the bonanza.

We’ve all heard the saying ‘Silence is Golden’, meaning precious. Sought after. Seductive. Valuable. I’m not sure I fully understood quite how golden silence can be until Natalie Goldberg forced it upon me. Gently. With understanding. She encouraged us to ‘sit’ in silence for luxurious lengths of time.  She instructed us to eat in silence, even if we were feasting next to our best friend (which I was). Instead of filling up the air with words, my tastes buds had a conversation with my food. It was a delightful exchange. She suggested that we walk slowly around the world in silence, and pay close attention to  everything we encountered along the way. And I did.

But silence, like most things shiny, has a darker side. It can be lonely. Frightening. Silence can leave you feeling disconnected. Caught on a broken treadmill endlessly running over unproductive thoughts.  That sort of silence is ‘noisy’.  Tarnished.  The golden glow long since forgotten.

Our task, as writers, as human beings, as learners, is to pay attention to both states. Pay attention to when life gets too fast, too loud. Pay attention to the times we could benefit from pressing mute in order to listen to our breath and not our voices.  Equally, pay attention to when we become locked. Stifled. In need of our volume being turned up.  In need of being heard. Too many of us operate on extremes, missing opportunities to create a more harmonious balance.

I have plenty of lasting memories from that week in Taos, but there is one that stands out from the rest. I was walking back to my bedroom on the first deliciously dark night. Somewhere over Taos mountain there was an electrical storm.  The entire landscape was alive with light — frenetic, neon bolts cracking into the atmosphere, scratching silver zig zags through the blackness. Natalie was walking next to me. Silent. I assumed she would remain wrapped in the meditative moment.  It seemed possible to me that she was the kind of women who could slow walk calmly through Mardi Gras. But then she surprised me, like the best writers do.  She glanced up and caught sight of the spectacular sideshow, and in her broad New York accent, she sliced through the silence with a gloriously, life affirming query.

“What the FUCK is that?” 

I remember smiling. It was that line that leaps out at you from the page of a book when you’re quietly reading at midnight.  It catapults off the page and cartwheels around your brain, reminding you why you love to read. Reminding you why the author is so brilliant.

Golden Goldberg.

And now to you! What is your relationship to silence? Do you want more of it or less? Do you need silence to work or are you more productive with noise around you? Do you have ‘loud’ memories from your childhood or ‘quiet’ ones? Or both?
I won’t talk for a little while… I’ll sit and wait for your words to arrive. I’m ready to listen…

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Once Bitten

Photograph by Chloe Green 2012

My dog, Lilly, was bitten by another dog this week.

Ouch.

The vet stapled her wound shut, and if that wasn’t dismal enough, condemned her to wear ‘the cone of shame’ for ten days. Like any self respecting animal, Lilly was desperate to lick her wound. She moped around the house forlornly. She whimpered. She kept me up for two nights sitting by the edge of my bed staring at me, determined that I would be the guest of honour at her pity party. It worked. It’s ridiculously hard to resist those beautiful brown eyes, even at 3am. The following day I gave in and removed her cone, vowing to watch her vigilantly to prevent her inflicting any further damage. Of course I got distracted.  I have a university degree in getting distracted (with distinction). After a twenty minute phone call, I returned to find Lilly gleefully licking her laceration. She wagged her tail triumphantly, having managed to pull out the staples and open the wound.  Lilly and I spent another hour at the vet.

She was hurt all over again.

We do that don’t we? We feel attacked. Bitten. Injured. Disappointed. And we hold on. Sometimes we find it almost impossible to not keep returning to our wound and reopening it, repeatedly.

I completed a novel last year, succeeded in securing an agent, and like thousands of others who submit full of optimism and sparkle, my book was rejected. Many times.  I spent months, not unlike Lilly, feeling sorry for myself and gouging at my wound. I longed for the life I was leading in the run up to the submission, full of promise and potential. I attempted to begin another novel, but without the validation I had been seeking, my enthusiasm for my craft wobbled and wavered. Eventually, a scab began to form and with the scab new ideas and resolve slowly began to generate. I decided to write about my experience of rejection, as a means of catharsis, but also as a way of fielding the constant questioning from everyone I knew.

Them: “So,what’s happening with your book?”
Me: “Ummmm….”

I sent my ode to rejection to a group of family and friends and it spread from there. The encouragement and support I received in return was awesome. The rally around me was palpable. My willingness to lay myself bare seemed to inspire people.

Suddenly it was clear to me.

I had been contemplating the idea of Write To Be You for some time, but had been too focused on the novel to initiate motion. I wanted to create a community that drew together my psychotherapy training and my writing background. I wanted to design a space for myself and others that didn’t rely purely on external approval. I imagined a forum where I could encourage others to write to make connection to themselves, rather than to please someone else. A bright, luminous lightbulb appeared above my head and Write To Be You Workshopsand blog were born.The ethos: write from your heart and your words will find a pulse. 

My intention, restated, is:

To offer a safe, empathic environment where we can contemplate wounds, reveal scabs and scars, and support one another in not constantly reopening the cuts and watching them bleed. Write To Be You is a call to creative action.  A wish that everyone reading will spend some time reflecting on the posts and writing, even if it is just for a few minutes or a few lines.  I’m showing up here every Monday and every Thursday with an invitation for you to write and to share. All your stories, responses and thoughts are read by me and published in the comments section, where we can weave together common threads, as well as delight in our differences.

If you choose to write, even for just ten minutes, twice a week, in a matter of months you will have a lively notebook. I’m also regularly challenging you to a Ready, Steady, Write… an opportunity to launch your imagination or your thoughts from an image and watch your words as they fly.

So please join Lilly (who is on the mend) and me in this new phase of promise and potential. We both may have been once bitten, but we’ve come to understand, there is little to be gained from being twice shy.

If you’re interested in the piece I originally wrote “It’s good, but…” Reflections on Rejection, it has been published on Single Minded Women. Click here to read.

And now to my readers – what has bitten you and how have you reacted? Have you been picking at a wound or finding it hard to move away from shame? What advice or stories do you have for other readers who are grappling with rejection?  Your responses are welcomed here always…. ten minutes, ten lines… just write…

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