Tag Archives: judgement

Double Exposure

At the time of writing this, thanks to those of you who generously donated your words, I have raised $395 for The Pablove Foundation.  48 of you sent me a fictional story, poem or memory inspired by a simple picture of an ice cream cone taken by a child living with cancer. 48 of you carved out time from your busy schedules and pledged your words, trusting your voice and risking sharing.

I am so grateful to those of you who participated. 

Plus it was such a treat for me to read the contributions landing daily… each expression unique and interesting. If you haven’t already, have a browse through the comments from the Incentive posts. There are far more than 31 flavours!

With every new comment that arrived, I sensed a community gathering.

This was always my intention for the blog and for Write To Be You. Writing only in isolation can feel extremely lonely. While writing and sharing, linking words like hands, has the collective potential to nourish your soul and expand your outlook. But with that nourishment comes the threat of exposure, and I realized over the last 2 weeks, that many of my readers didn’t join in my fundraising campaign for fear of feeling over exposed. The realization saddened me. I want to emphasize here that any contribution to the site can be submitted anonymously. You can even invent a fabulous nom de plume and waltz your words around the screen with abandon, cleverly disguised by your daring alter ego.

But more importantly, I’d like to propose that some level of exposure is vital to the creative process and integral to growth.

Think old school SLR cameras. The shutter has to open, even briefly, in order to catch a flash of light and imprint the image onto the film. Human beings are not so different. A little exposure can go a long way. Can you break free of your ‘not a writer’ persona and write anyway? Can you give yourself permission to play with words or thoughts and discard the looming fear of being compared or judged?

Can you allow yourself to develop?

Somewhere in the script of my childhood I repeatedly heard the line, “people don’t change.” I am here to contest that notion. I absolutely believe in the power of subtle transformation. Not necessarily sweeping leaps of faith… but small skips in alternate directions. Hushed murmurs like butterfly wings, powerful because they are intricately bold rather than overbearing.

So open the shutter.

Capture a surprising aspect of yourself. Some of the most intriguing photographs are double exposures, randomly stolen moments, immortalized by mistake. Why are these images so captivating? Because they reveal that two things can exist at the same time. You don’t have to define yourself with only limited parameters. Writing is not only for ‘writers’. Creativity is available to everyone.

Demand that the uptight, hard assed teacher living inside of you put down her red pen and experiment with some other colors for once. And while she’s distracted, discard your uniform, skip through the hallways and release your words into the world.

The butterflies are waiting.

PS.If you didn’t get around to donating words for one reason or another, my deadline is up, but you can always go directly to the Pablove site and donate $10 yourself. Every little bit counts…

Are you afraid of exposure? Where does the fear stem from? Can you break through the fear and explore writing something? Anything? Be gentle on yourself. If you don’t want to be too revealing, invent a name and see what words come. Equally, if you have reaped the benefits of exposure, please share!

Or

Create a character who resists change. Write an outline of this person and notice how you feel about them as you write. Think about their backstory. What and who has shaped them?

 

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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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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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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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Shifting the Balance

I have a skin condition called Vitilgo.  Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder that causes pigment to disappear.  My body is scattered with randomly shaped patches and spots that have lost all colour.  I’ve named them my islands of white.  Thousands of people are living with the condition in varying degrees.  Although it is purely cosmetic with no other sinister symptoms, Vitiligo can be deeply debilitating. Self esteem can disappear along with the pigment, leaving many people who have the condition feeling odd, unusual, self conscious – sadly uncomfortable in their ever shifting skin.


Like countless others, people with Vitiligo have to confront on a daily basis an aspect of themselves that they might wish to be different.  Plenty of us wrangle with our perceived flaws, spending precious time daydreaming, “If only I didn’t have_____ ” Fill in the blank. It is especially challenging in a media driven society that is intent on disseminating such a limited and superficial vision of beauty.

We are all of course multi dimensional.  But defaulting to defining ourselves by one narrow element is a trap that can easily snare even the most self aware.

Think on aspect of yourself that you are dissatisfied with or that you try to wish away.  It can be a physical feature, a medical condition or a personality trait.  Write in detail about that aspect  of yourself.  Spend time reflecting on how it has affected your life.  Are you self conscious?  Does it stop you from moving forward? Are you worried about other people’s judgment?  

Now think of an aspect of yourself that you feel good about.  A strength.  A quality or feature you have been complimented on and feel proud of.  How has it benefited you? Give this part equal time and attention.  Be specific. 

If we put all our weight constantly onto only one leg, we will most probably begin to feel a nagging ache in our hip.  We will be off balance.  Not unlike giving constant attention to negative aspects of ourselves, while disregarding our strengths and skills.  Something, somewhere inside of us will suffer.

Shift the balance. Centre yourself.


Write for at least five minutes on both topics, remaining aware of which topic wants more of your attention.Go…

After you’ve written, if you’re interested to hear me talking to Nathalie from
VITILIGO FRIENDS about living with the condition and using writing as a tool, you can listen HERE

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Risk It

Two days ago I released the website and the blog into the wider world. It’s strange to know that now I’m not the only one reading these posts! I have had a lot of love and encouragement flying my way as a result, and I am extremely grateful.

Attempting anything new is always a risk. We risk being vulnerable. Feeling exposed. We risk getting it ‘wrong’ and feeling uncomfortable, or at worst having to battle the dreaded, loathsome enemy – shame.

Shame is a such a visceral, pervasive emotion.  It can appear in an instant, usually when we find ourselves at the mercy of someone else’s reaction. It gets us in the gut. Coats us in a slimy film. It has the power to diminish us in seconds. In a blink we can transform from a functioning grown-up into a very small person longing to be smaller, or even more effective – invisible.

Shame is often rooted in our ancient histories (early school experiences; mocking reactions from our peer group or adults; in the most serious cases – abuse) but a present day reminder can trigger instant recall, and we end up tangled in a destructive loop.  Some people go to great lengths to avoid ever being in that position again, and their lives shrink considerably as a result.

I have never been a natural risk taker. You won’t find me bungee jumping or balancing on a narrow edge.  As a child, I was even scared to walk down a steep hill. I was afraid of being hurt or looking like a fool. Some of us just are.  But I am learning to find alternate ways to bungee jump. I am risking breaking the loop in order to try things out.  I am dipping my toes into waters I previously judged far too icey. The rewards, as I am discovering, are golden.  I’m becoming more resiliant and that feels like warm relief. It is not a simple process. Many of us are very entrenched in the habits and ways of being that we have constructed to keep us feeling protected and safe. But ironically, many of us also feel imprisoned by those same security measures. It takes time to bend the bars.

Begin here. Think about an experience where you felt overcome with shame. How did you react?  What were you left with after it had all unfolded?  Stay with the feelings. Be specific. Now write a letter to the people or person who you feel contributed to that shame response in you.  Don’t hold back. Write in BIG BOLD LETTERS. Allow your words to SHOUT.  Tell your truth.  When you are finished – rip it up, or better yet – put it in an envelope (if you still have one!)  Write whatever you wish to on the front, and take it to a post/mail box and slip it through the slot.  Or leave it on a table at Starbucks. Or propped in a tree branch. Or on the bus. Or on a bench.

Just let it go…

Notice how you feel as you walk away.

Sometimes we need a grand gesture to make a start.  Risk it…

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