Tag Archives: internal worlds

Meet ‘Wild Words’

This blog has been sleeping like a baby bear hibernating, dreaming up new schemes for the warmer months. Meanwhile, I’ve been dancing around my second novel and running groups from home, humbled each week by the raw and healing power of  truth seeking and truth speaking. Allowing vulnerability to push through the surface of our pages is always frightening and often liberating. I see it time and time again, when women dare to write about something hidden… they arrive in the light… earth on their hands… tears on their cheeks… hope in their eyes.

Today on Write To Be You, I’m thrilled to host a post by my friend and fellow writer/psychotherapist, Bridget Holding.Bridget main photo

Bridget works on the other side of the world from me in France and the UK, but our message shares the same reflection. She has much wisdom to offer about hibernation and I’m excited to introduce you to her wonderful site WILD WORDS. Explore her selection of online courses and writing retreats – enrollment for her current online course ends this week!  Enjoy!

banniere

Freeing our ‘Wild Words’

By Bridget Holding

I run ‘Wild Words’ online writing courses, and writing holidays in the beautiful mountains of the Pyrenees, in France. Our aim at Wild Words is to free the caged words within us, and harness them on the page. We explore what it means for ourselves and our words to be ‘wild’.

Often I begin workshops by asking participants ‘what are your wild words?’ Immediately, metaphorical hands shoot up. Isn’t it obvious? Wild words are like the tiger, expressive, untamed, and fiery.

But are they? Not always. Because that initial answer is often not our own. Rather, it’s the one that is conditioned into us. It’s a societal view of how we believe our words should behave if we graciously deign to allow them free reign.

And the reason we should be suspicious about our first answer to this question? It’s because the answer is so easy to come up with. In fact, it’s too easy. If we are right, our wild words will rise up all-singing and all-dancing. They will be barefaced shameless, and proud.

However, would the words that are caged within us, really emerge so functional after so long a confinement? At the very least an animal that is confined for a long period of time would come blinking out into the light. And more likely it would cower in the corner of the cage, too terrified to come out at all. And when it did emerge, it would be unsteady on its feet, over-reactive to the bombardment of unfamiliar stimulus it encountered.

Trust me, those words that we really censor, we find it difficult even to think, let alone put down on the page.

Frequently in my psychotherapy practice I see clients who have gaps in their memory, places in which there should be thoughts and words, but in which there are no longer words at all. As writers we can tell when we get close to our wildest words, by the efforts we make to avoid going there. Our bodies and minds change tack urgently. We tune out, cut off, fly away…

So how can we find our own, more authentic answer to this question? Here are some ideas that might help:

-Be patient. Wait for your authentic words to emerge in their own time. Don’t rush them, or force them.

-Sit alongside yourself in the process; support the fragile part of yourself.

-Think about what you want to write, what you really, truly want to write, not just what you are used to believing that you want to write.

-Think about what you have to lose by releasing those Wild Words. Bring that into consciousness. How can you ease that fear?

-Ask yourself: What would it mean to allow my words to be just exactly as they are?

Writing Prompt: Having read this article, spend fifteen minutes writing a piece of prose or poetry that is your personal answer to the question: ‘What are your wild words?’

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Get It Write

I’ve never abseiled off the side of a building or walked a tightrope, but I’ve bared my soul in writing and thrown it with abandon into the world. I’ve taken emotional risks with my words that can feel as petrifying and as dangerous as taking similar risks with my body.

And I’ve survived.

I’m privileged to watch people in my workshops week in and week out access the deep courage it requires to take those very same risks. To become vulnerable. To try things out. To expose their fears of shame and failure.

Why is writing so terrifying? In this post from last year, I begin to unpack that question. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject when you have finished reading…

Enjoy  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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In Need of a Get Together

A note to say my posts have slowed down for the time being because I am busy working on the sequel to ‘Playing Along’ and I’m noticing that all my energy is drawn towards writing that. It’s important to honour the pull of a project – if it has you entwined, then sometimes the best thing to do is not disentangle. However, I have had  a lot of new followers to the blog recently and I am grateful for the interest. I will continue to blog and post writing prompts, but until then I would like to share some of the archives with you. If you are new to this post, why not give the writing prompt a try?  If you are revisiting, I invite you to reflect on the post again. Returning to something with a fresh lens is often very useful!

Thank you, as ever, for your support!

Enjoy IN NEED OF A GET TOGETHER:

 

I remember when I first heard the term ‘inner child’, I pictured a pouting toddler, curled forward, arms hugging her knees. She was crouched somewhere deep inside of me, behind my ribs, peeking through the gaps like they were slatted window blinds.  I felt unnerved by her presence.  Did she need a snack?  A cuddle? Someone to play with?  It was hard enough meeting the needs of my own two children and suddenly I had a third small person to worry about.  One who didn’t speak much but had the whole of my history wrapped quietly around her tongue.

When I was training to be a therapist we were encouraged to have a dialogue with our inner child. Good luck.  Mine was uncooperative. She hid her face. Gazed at me with pleading eyes. Begged me silently to put her to bed and concentrate instead on being the ‘outer grown-up’ I was supposed to be. I soon realized she wasn’t alone in there. She was hanging out with my ‘inner control freak’, my ‘inner debbie downer’, my ‘inner hopeless romantic’, my ‘inner moody adolescent’ and my ‘inner catastrophist’. They were all having a fine old time.

Trying to get the attention of my tenants was a bit like attempting to recite poetry at rave. My inner child might have been monosyllabic, but the rest of them were a raucous crowd – constantly jostling to be heard.

We all have busy interiors. Different psychological paradigms assign this phenomenon varying labels  (ego states and sub personalities to name a few). Whatever you wish to call them, our chaotic internal get togethers are often a result of neglected aspects of ourselves battling for the limelight.

Start to listen to the voices. Establish firm guidelines. I learnt not to let Debbie Downer and Hopeless Romantic meet for breakfast on Valentines Day, no matter how much they petitioned – it was never pretty. Catastrophist was banned from reading the newspapers for a little while and Control Freak was surprisingly calm when I instructed her to keep typing and stop tidying. I started dragging Adolescent to gigs with me and she stopped sulking about all the endless Saturday nights spent watching ‘The Love Boat’. I bought Child the dog she had been longing for, and we took a daily walk through the wooded trees in the park. Gradually she began to chat. She whispered a few secrets to me about connecting with my own children as well; secrets I had very nearly forgotten.

Ignoring the needy parts of ourselves will always have a consequence. Start tuning in to the voices in your head. Use your writing to help you hear what they have to say. Take a roll call. Write a dialogue between them all – is it a comical farce or a tension fuelled drama? Notice who’s mssing. Is there an aspect of yourself that you need to make more space for?  Write them an entrance.

Share your findings!  Post snippets of your dialogue in the comments section or simply let me know your thoughts about your own internal meet ups.  Be playful – create an imaginary Facebook page for your various aspects or write about what they might Tweet to each other.  Don’t over think this.  Just write… and report back!

Additionally – explore the archives on the right for more prompts and click on the Ready, Steady, Write link to find image inspirations!

 

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I’m Pushing an Elephant up the Stairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress… back to the REM song :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

OR

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

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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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Image

Ready, Steady Write #23

Find your miracle today…

write for ten minutes using the image as your starting point

share your discoveries in the comments…

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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“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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