Tag Archives: growth

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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Body Talk

Balance.

It’s a word bandied around quite a bit these days.

“Find a balance.”  “Inner balance.”  “Strive for balance”.

Sometimes if a word is overused in our media driven culture, we become immune to it. The concept begins to bleed around the edges and the essence is diluted.

When this occurs, something extreme might have to happen to jog our memories. To remind us why certain words are worth valuing.

This week, I encountered that extreme reminder. I lost my balance. Literally and figuratively. I suffer from episodes of positional vertigo, which translated means: I get dizzy.

Not just regular dizzy, but room spinning, drunk lurching, stomach churning kind of dizzy. I lose my equilibrium. Truly. Balance becomes a distant memory. One moment I am leaning down to put Lilly’s water bowl on the floor. The next moment I am on the floor.

It’s not fun.

But I think it might be my body’s way of tapping me on the shoulder and whispering in my ear, “Slow down”,  “Pay attention”, “Breathe”, “Do not take this all for granted”.

Our bodies talk to us in ways we don’t always realize, and sometimes we just need to pause and listen – even if that pause comes in between rushing to doctors on a mission to ‘fix’ it.

Like tuning into the sound waves behind the static, occasionally we need to be patient and wait for the message.

My message wasn’t a subtle one. I stayed in bed for a few hours. I drank water. I let my daughter drift essential oils under my nose while I lay back like a queen. And surprisingly, she actually enjoyed the role reversal. She was grateful for an opportunity to look after me for once.

I haven’t regained my inner ear balance entirely, but a different kind of balance has been restored. I’m not just giving out all the time.  I’m trying to notice ways this week in which I can receive as well. I’m more open to being nourished and appreciating that, rather than only nourishing others.

I’ve moved past the static, and the music is increasingly lucid and pleasingly clear.

What does your body need to tell you at the moment? Write from the POV of your body and see what she/he has to say. Keep your pen moving for ten minutes. Set a timer. Don’t edit as you write. Be open to receiving the message.

If you are feeling brave – share here. If you are subscribed via email – clink on the link to the website and scroll down to comment.

Thank you for joining me!

 

 

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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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On Being a Hopeful Cynic

I’m having difficulty landing on a subject today. I have lots of themes jostling for attention in my head, and to complicate matters, I have a cold. Every time I sneeze it’s as if I am violently launching my most recent thought into the universe, never to be retrieved again.  So I’m in this weird position of feeling full and empty all at the same time.

Does that ever happen to you? You find yourself suddenly having to hold onto contradictory feelings? Grateful and bitter? Bored and stimulated? Morose and upbeat?

We’re complex beings, us humans, and sometimes our internal landscapes are not so manicured.

Sometimes they are overgrown, unruly, in need of a mow. Sometimes bright wild flowers blossom in the midst and we find ourselves questioning what needs weeding and what can remain.

For the past few weeks I have been occupied again with the novel I wrote last year, ‘Playing Along’. I have been toying with self publishing and the toying has slowly inched towards action. It was in fact the rejection of that very novel which led to the creation of Write To Be You… so I am strangely thankful to the very same people who this time last year were responsible for wilting my heart. I now have the distance and the insight to understand this as a rite of passage for most aspiring novelists. You can read the backstory by clicking here.

(On a side note – It seems this post has made up its mind. It’s definitely maybe about conflicting feelings. I think.)

So I have spent the last month working towards a goal — preparing to finally release my words and my beloved characters into the world. And I feel ready and reticent all in the same breath. I feel confident and cowering.

I’m a hopeful cynic – immensely excited by my book, but dubious of being overly enthusiastic for fear of  flailing

I’m the sort of person who is wary of those letters tucked into holiday cards – you know the ones – proudly listing the achievements of each and every family member including the dog. I’m left wondering – where’s the shadow? What about the child who is struggling at school? Or the teenager who is battling his parents? Or the dog who is crapping on the carpet? How would that letter read?!

Maybe it’s the therapist in me. I’m all for celebrating our achievements, but I’m also drawn towards the complexities in life, a predilection completely at odds with the tenants behind the self-promotion needed for self-publication:

Become a soundbite!

Run through the hallways of the wild web waving a banner declaring “Drink me! Read this!”

Enlist thousand of fans with your unwavering self belief.

Okay. Okay. We all get the picture. Even me.

So I will be telling you more about ‘Playing Along’ – my sweet, quirky, romantic comedy, before it makes its Amazon debut in November.

And I will be showing off the cover (which is currently a pretty cool work in progress).

And I will be hopefully tempting you with excerpts from the book.

But until then, I have blog posts to write, reluctant writers to inspire, workshops to run, and let’s not forget – dog crap to dispose of.

 

Write about contradictory feelings…Which aspects of this post can you relate to?

or

Paint a picture in words of your current internal landscape. If you were taking a tour of these gardens – what might you find? Be specific. Call upon yours senses – smell, sight, taste, touch and sound.

Join me in being brave and share your words. You are not alone in your hesitancy…

 

 

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Me and My Shadow

photograph by Denis Sinyakov

Walking with my dog, Lilly, in the sunshine this week, I noticed our shadows strolling in front of us … attached… dark faceless companions paving our way. I began to reflect on the word ‘shadow’ and how it’s been showing up in my life recently, nudging me cunningly.

Only a few days ago while purging clutter in my garage, I stumbled across an old diary entry from my sophomore year, bemoaning a night out with a friend.

 “She gets so much attention. I always feel like I’m in her shadow…”

It was a familiar story and one I told myself for years. It went something like this:

Once upon a time there was a little girl with crossed eyes and thick-rimmed glasses. She felt she could never compare to the beautiful princesses and queens surrounding her, so she lived in their shadows instead. She wrote in the darkness. She avoided the light, closing her eyes from the glare of the golden tiaras that sparkled brightly around her…

The thing about that story is that it was destined to end sadly, until I made the decision to alter it. I knew I couldn’t change the beginning, but I could affect the middle and the end. I could create fresh dialogue and play with new themes. I could step cautiously out of the shade cast by others and get to know my own shadow instead.

We all can.

Carl Jung, who explored the concept of the ‘shadow’ and how it relates to the human psyche, wrote in 1946 “The man who recognizes his shadow knows very well that he is not harmless…”

Shadow aspects of self are dark and dank. They reside in the mouldy basement of our unconscious where ill wishes and self harm fester and breed. Like a viscous dog foaming at the mouth, our shadow aspects are just waiting to be cruel, and that ferocity is as easily directed inwards as it is outwards.

Once I started examining my own shadow, rather than living in the confines of other people’s, I began to understand my spiteful urge to blame others for my lack of momentum. It was a valuable insight.

Self-sabotage can become addictive until you wrangle it with your awareness. Confronting your shadow head on can diminish its powers – like Dorothy throwing a bucket of water on the Wicked Witch of the West, there may be momentary triumphs when we watch our shadows shrivel.

But unlike the witch, our shadows will never completely vanish. They are licensed to linger.

Coming to terms with our darkest aspects means accepting their presence rather than imagining we can permanently enforce their absence.

Like the prolonged political promise to ‘wage a war on terror’, the battle is one that will never ultimately be won, because wherever there is lightness, darkness is not far away. It is an age old, archetypal, unsettling truth.  The two are inextricably linked.

So drink up the darkness. Walk with your shadow and become familiar with its wily ways. You’ll be surprised how many tales you both have to tell…

 

Write for ten minutes on the word ‘shadow’

or

Give your shadow a voice. Create a dialogue between the dark aspects of your self and the lighter elements. What needs to be said? Who is louder? How could you introduce more equilibrium? If your shadow was an animal what would it be?

Let’s uncover these demons… gather them together here…

 

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Let’s Be Honest

Honesty can burn your tongue. Like slurping a hot soup infused with chilies, the aftermath can sting. Especially when you have been brave enough to speak a truth that feels easier to conceal. But honesty can also rejuvenate. It can be utterly refreshing – like a tall glass of lemonade crowded with ice cubes.

Well timed honesty can hit the spot.

I’ve noticed recently that over the years I have become quite adept at avoiding being honest. I’m quick footed, leaping swiftly over bulky boulders of truth in order to dodge the fall out. But there is a price to pay for circumventing these rocks, rather than standing upon them, feeling the stone beneath my feet, and declaring, “This is what I need to say…”

So I’m beginning the climb.  And I’m starting with myself. Gradually confronting blemishes I have been concealing for years.

First on my list : admitting when I am wrong.

Last night I bellowed at my teenage son for no particular reason, except maybe that I was releasing the frustrations of the day. He was tired and hurt.

Thinking back – everything I said to him was an attempt to be right. To sound as if I held the power. To let him know that I had all the answers.

An hour later I lay in bed calming down and decided to be honest with myself. I admitted  that I was wrong to bark at him. I told myself a painful truth. He’s growing up. He’s slipping away from me (as he should) and my tirade was an attempt to remain loud in his life. I don’t want to be disregarded or forgotten, so I tried to get in his face, to remind him that I’m in the control tower. An impressive illusion.

Being honest with myself helped me to focus on what I do need to do to remain pertinent in my son’s life.

I need to back off.

I need to be present but not pushy.

I need to love him quietly and allow him the space to come towards me.

Hmmm… the sweet cooling sensation of lemons after the bite of chili.

Next on the menu is being honest with other people. I tasted that one this morning when I served up a flavourful apology to my son.

He gulped it down gratefully.

Onwards…

Shall we work on this together? Write for ten minutes using the word ‘honesty’ as a springboard. What have you been hiding from yourself or someone else? What stifled truth needs some air?

 

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Some Like it Hot

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

In the dark.

Dripping ceaselessly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It doesn’t really matter what it is.

Just as long as it makes you sweat.

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

OR

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

 

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Play Me, I’m Yours

I was in London last month visiting my ‘other’ home. I arrived feeling dislocated.  It’s an odd sideways movement returning to a place where you have left roots. A place where  you have made memories… sweet and bitter, clear and fuzzy, quiet and loud. When I land at the airport I feel like explaining myself. I want to pause at the passport control and tell them my story.

“I’m both you know. British and American. I have an American passport but a British accent. I’m double sided. Split. Torn in two. I was born here. Have lived in both places. I am always questioning where I belong.”

I wonder if they would listen – momentarily intrigued by the chance to see me as dimensional, rather than a flat document needing to be stamped.

So often we bypass opportunities to hear people’s stories. To colour in their outlines. To add flesh to their bones. I can think of too many occasions where I have met someone in a social situation, and even though I have asked numerous questions expressing a genuine interest in who they are, I am met with indifference. They show no curiosity. Ask nothing about me.

Sometimes we become so bound up in our own head space that we forget to look outward. We forget how nourishing and surprising it can feel to make connections.

During my trip to London, a friend and I set off optimistically with our daughters for a walk on Hampstead Heath. The sun above our heads was daring us to peel to off layers and believe we could be warm. But within minutes of embarking on our jaunt – the heavens cracked open and drenched us through and through. There was nowhere to hide. The four of us huddled together on a nearby bench under two small umbrellas for almost an hour. We shared biscuits and gave in to the absurdity of an English July, growing wetter by the second. When the rain finally let up and we stood up, a rainbow etched itself onto the sky and I knew the afternoon would remain vivid in my memory, even more so than if it had been a simple, sunny picnic.

As we made our way back to our cars we passed a piano in the park. Recently pianos have been dotted across the city of London with signs inviting people to ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’. They even come with piano ponchos to protect them from showers.

My eleven year old daughter took up the invitation. She carefully removed the dripping plastic cover, sat down underneath the rainbow and played ‘Yellow’ by Coldplay — the smile on my friend’s four year old’s face was priceless. I stood transfixed by the magic of the moments unfolding — knowing that the outing was transforming into a story I would always want to tell.

An older man on his bike stopped to listen too and when my daughter finished, he took over, playing an enthusiastic rendition of a Bee Gee’s song. He told us of his frequent visits to the piano in the park. He told us about the others who gathered around him each time for a ‘sing-a-long’.

We became threads linking each other together.

Whoever it is who came up with the brilliant idea of putting pianos in public spaces is a genius. I’d like to write them a thank you letter and tell them how grateful I am that they understand the value of connection. The pianos are providing the gift of a story… a story told through hundreds of notes played in countless configurations daily. These instruments, bared to the elements, hold chapters of lives lived in sudden unexpected bursts of creativity. They are bringing people into contact. Encouraging expression. Allowing strangers to seem less strange.

I only wish they had thought to place a piano in Heathrow airport. At the front of the queue . A welcome distraction while we all wait to be stamped.

Write about an unexpected interaction or connection. Curiosity about others fuels our writing lives. Pay attention. Don’t pass up a chance to ‘Play Me.’

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