Tag Archives: words

December Light

photo 1-2It’s been six months since I’ve posted on the blog. How to begin again after such a long and unplanned break?

Begin again.

One breath after another. One word after another. One thought after another, stretching out stiff limbs, like a hibernating bear waking up from an extremely long and heavy lidded nap.

I used to think that LA never changed. When I first moved back here from the UK three and a half years ago, I’m ashamed to say I felt aggravated by the endless sunshine. I was bound by my longing for seasons, unable to mutter a word of my weather lust to anyone for fear of seeming ungrateful. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the warmth, it’s just that I missed other temperatures. I missed being a voyeur of the trees beyond my bedroom window, watching them dress and undress as the year unfolded.

Turns out I was wrong about LA. The weather does change, only I wasn’t open to noticing. That ‘rigidity’ can often happen when we cling too intently to first impressions. We lock into our opinions, and occasionally we refuse to budge, becoming dependant on the familiarity of a well worn point of view.

Subtle shifts happen here in December and I’m becoming aware. LA is uncharacteristically humble in these later months, liberated from the usual red carpet swagger of a prolonged and brazen summer .

A surprising chill creeps up when the sun dips, and lingers before it rises. The hazy hot smog dissolves gradually and in its place, the sky explodes in the early evening, transforming into a canvas of swirly colour – a parade of pinks, oranges and blues. Certain trees on certain streets shed their leaves, offering up tiny unexpected microcosms of autumn. All but the hard core even retire their flip flops. For a little while at least. And the truly imaginative emerge after a morning of light rain dressed to impress in Hunter wellies and waterproof jackets fit for February in the Scottish Highlands.

LA changes. I just wasn’t letting it.

Sometimes we simply need to pick up where we left off, instead of berating ourselves for having left off in the first place. And sometimes we need to let go of our assumptions and look again. With new eyes. In a fresh December light…

Reflect on this: Is there a situation or a person in your life that you are convinced is unable to change? Can you take a step back and create some space, allowing that person or that situation to be considered in a new light? Perhaps that person is even you? Give yourself and others permission to shift. When you are feeling stuck, I invite you to simply begin again… breath by breath, word by word, thought by thought…

Writing prompt: Ten minutes on stuckness/ first impressions/ beginning again/ or your internal weather patterns. Choose one or all of the above…

Leave a Comment

Braking Habits

images-7

I have a vivid memory of sitting in a café with a trusted friend, many moons ago, lamenting my then relationship.

I had quite the shopping list. Why couldn’t my ‘other half’ be different? Why couldn’t all my love and input make things ‘better’ for us?  Couldn’t he see how hard I was working to try and help? This particular friend doesn’t cake decorate her words. She’s direct. Focused. She knows how to intercept tears.

Here’s what she said:

“Picture this – two broken down cars parked on the same street. One of them belongs to you and one of them belongs to him. You have all the tools you need to fix your own car, but for some inexplicable reason you are spending all your time attempting to fix him first, even though your own rent-a-wreck won’t start. You are NOT equipped to fix his car – only he can do that! Newsflash – you ARE qualified to work on your own misfires, and if he sees you revving your engine, polishing your rims, changing your oil – there’s a good chance he’ll be inspired to do the same.”

Okay – so I might have embellished her metaphor slightly, but the wisdom remains. At the time, I felt defeated. Why wasn’t I ‘enough’ to tune him up? Surely he wanted to ‘improve’ in order to make me happier?

Before long, I realized my sage confidante was a pretty astute psychological mechanic, and I embarked on a mission to service my own ailing parts, instead of wasting my precious energy using a rusty unsuitable spanner on his.

In essence, I began to be kinder and more attentive to myself, and as a result, less critical towards him. It seems to me, we are often drawn towards being our own worst enemy, rather than our own dear friend.

With this insight, I felt more effective and less of a victim of my circumstances. Bitterness receded and I became easier to relate to, while he, miraculously, began to find it easier to relate.

Not so miraculous really, it makes a lot of sense.

The most effective method of change is modelling the behaviour you hope to see in others.

A very simple example is one that parents encounter frequently. They yell at their kids in a vain attempt to stop their kids from yelling. It never appears obvious at the time, but if we could watch ourselves on video flailing around in these chaotic moments, the picture would be absurdly clear.

Ghandi might not have been berating a six year old or fuming at his partner when he said

Be the change you want to see in the world…

 but the most poignant mantras can be applied in many circumstances.

So if you’re investing all your efforts into solving someone else’s problems with the intent of  increasing their worth, put the brakes on. While you’re at it, listen for a squeak – a sure indication of where your own work needs to begin…

Did this post resonate with you?

WRITING PROMPT: Take ten minutes and jump off from the quote “Be the change you want to see in the world…” what meaning do these words currently hold in your life? OR Write about a relationship where you feel stuck in ‘fixing’ mode. Explore options. How can you take your tools and turn them towards self development?

Leave a Comment

Every Person’s Life

photo-14 copy 3

In 1987 renowned Gestalt psychotherapist, Erving Polster, wrote a book called “Every Person’s Life is Worth a Novel”.  In this book he writes:

Stories must not only be told, but also heard. What is said gains value from the listeners understanding…

He goes on to write:

We also use stories to join our lives with those of other people…

I recently had the pleasure of meeting some of the founders of a remarkable and powerful new venture called Narrative 4 begun by writers, artists and educators who are passionate about ‘hearing’ and ‘joining’. Narrative 4 aims to enable teenagers globally to come together to exchange stories as a tool for social change. The exchange is intended to be literal – an ultimate act of reflection. The idea is for the young people to swap stories and then read each other’s stories aloud to one another – to allow words to transcend all differences and thread together human experience.  The stated ethos of Narrative 4 is: 

We believe sharing stories is the key to opening the world. We call it ‘Fearless hope through radical empathy’

I call it inspired.

We all crave an attuned listener. We carry our stories with us deep in our pockets, etched on our hearts, buried in hidden places. Sometimes our stories are legible, easy to read, but sometimes it is as if they are written on the wet wall of a dark cave and we spend years waiting for someone to strike a match.

And when the day finally comes, the sudden exposure can be glaring. The attention can call forth panic, anxiety, shame, trepidation, but ultimately relief. We want to be heard. We need to be seen. And even the small flickering flame from a single match can shed enough light for us to look around and realize that we are not alone with our stories. Sharing our truths is an act of healing.

I’ve experienced this firsthand both as a client and a therapist. Every week in my workshop I listen intently as participants grow brave enough to write their stories and offer them up to the group. We are not there to assess or critique or shape or edit. We are there to listen. People come to Write To Be You to be seen and heard, and to see and hear. I am humbled by the courage of my participants and I am witness to the bonds that powerfully and delicately ‘join’ us through story, encouraging self worth, enabling understanding, embracing recovery.

I am often amazed at how few questions people ask in social situations. Is it that we are bound by decorum not wanting to appear nosey? Or is it that so many people are wrapped  tightly in their own inward facing cocoon that it doesn’t occur to them to reach beyond that and explore another’s landscape?

Questions are essential to social interactions, and yet contemporary technology encourages a ‘me’ centred paradigm where our young people are at risk of becoming voyeurs and not listeners. Let’s encourage curiosity in ourselves and younger generations. Next time you meet someone you don’t know, practice drawing out their story. Be interested. See what you can learn about yourself by listening to someone else.

And while you’re at it, please join me in exploring and supporting Narrative 4 as a dedicated group of individuals step up to link our ever divided world. Personal narratives are thirsty for oxygen, buried within us they can fester and wilt. Now more than ever we need to return to the ancient arts and allow them to work their communal magic alongside technology.

It is not only in recent years that the most essential tales told have gone ‘viral’…  the passage and momentum of storytelling has been with us from the beginning of time. We just need to keep breathing fresh air into stale corners and lighting that match in the darkest of caves.

Read about the origins of Narrative 4 by clicking HERE and visit their website HERE

A writing prompt inspired by Narrative 4: Write about discovering a story on the wall of a cave. Who has been there before you? What is the writing on the wall? Imagine you are illuminated by the light of the match. Tell both of your stories. Give yourself permission to write in fragments, dream images, floating words. Feel your way…

Leave a Comment

If Only Shmonly…

2.16 021

I started wearing glasses when I was two. Horn-rimmed frames with magnifying lenses that made my eyes look like marbles. Top that with a frizzy bonnet of mad hair and I resembled a miniature version of Garth from Wayne’s World.

I didn’t realize the glasses would present a problem for me until I grew up and began listening to the chatter around me. The reason I wore them, among other things, was because I had lazy muscles in both of my eyes, causing a wayward drift. Even though I might have been looking directly at you, my eyes betrayed me, giving the impression that I was looking both left and right at the same time. I don’t call that lazy – I call that highly motivated!

The chatter I began to absorb, mostly at school, was a variation on a theme “If only her eyes were straight, she would be so pretty…”

I’m not certain if I ever heard someone say these exact words, but I might have done, because that is the story I began to tell myself.

“If only my eyes were straight…”

“If only I didn’t wear glasses…”

That soon translated into my adolescence, fuelled by the images and articles young girls and women are flooded by, “If only my breasts were bigger, my hair silkier, my posture more poised, my skin clearer, my confidence higher, my grades better, my nose smaller, my thighs thinner…” and on and on and on…

It’s a relentless barrage of ‘if onlys’ which many girls start to digest from an early age becoming so full of self-doubt and self-hate and self-consciousness that they feel like bursting or cracking or choking or hiding.

We all know girls that have succumbed to the above list in one form or another, and the saddest part is that our society is hell bent on reinforcing the ‘if only’ mentality, praying on our prediliction to feel shame over pride.

Images of how our lives could be better ‘if only’ we bought these clothes, or that make-up, or subscribed to that magazine, or sprayed that perfume, or dated that boy, or lost that weight, are shoved down our throats incessantly. Girls are being fed on a diet of inadequacies, supplied by companies recently in the media, like Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria’s Secret and Disney to name a few.

These corporations, with such great sway, choose to promote a warped mirror to women and men alike – offering reduced, dumbed down, one size fits all versions of ourselves. It’s tragic really, when they have the opportunity to reflect the wonderful truth to women of all ages – that we are dimensional, complex, diverse, beautiful – as is.

If only someone would teach us to believe that…

It took me many years and corrective surgery to overcome my insecurities about my ‘defective’ eyes and my chunky glasses. Ironically I am now the epitome of geek chic. What I wasn’t factoring on was the onset of vitiligo when I was in my early thirties – a skin condition, affecting thousands globally, which results in the loss of pigment from random places on your face and body. I look like an atlas, mapped with islands of white, my skin an ever-changing patchwork of pigment.

photo-14

Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder that has always fascinated me because in autoimmune disease the body essentially turns on itself. The immune system mistakes healthy cells as the enemy and launches an attack. And I wonder if that is in fact what our society and media and advertising has subliminally encouraged women to do, disguised as self improvement,  enhancement, entertainment?

Have we been brainwashed to ‘battle’ ourselves – to turn away from self-love towards self-hate?

Are men being influenced also?  Consider the statistics of violence against women. This is a bigger, complicated picture and I am merely examining fragments of a broken mirror here, but surely it is worth our reflection?

And as for me. I’m over it. I still have wonky eyes and thick glasses and patterned skin that draws unwanted attention and occasional questions, but I’m healthy otherwise. I embrace my quirks, my unique aspects of self. My issues are ‘cosmetic’ but we’ve been conditioned to allow ‘cosmetic’ to win.

I want to wage another war – a war against this absurdity. And I want to wage it peacefully by offering up thinking points and a compassionate dialogue. I’m raising a boy and a girl, and I know that one size does not fit all. They both need to be part of this movement.

We all do.

If only shmonly…

 

If you are interested in exploring more of the issues I have raised here, visit www.missrepresentation.org and join the conversation!

 

TEN MINUTE PROMPT!

Where do the words ‘if only’ take you? Explore the paths you travel and pause to consider what needs challenging?

I’d love to hear your responses to this post or your responses to the prompt. Let them go. Here. Now.

Here’s thanks for reading and hopes for writing!

 

 

Leave a Comment

A Desert Garden

photo-14

There is a garden that I pass in my neighbourhood when I walk with Lilly in the mornings. It is a desert garden, punctuated with muted greens, spiky leaves, bursts of yellow and purple, and an array of thorny cacti.

The garden appears on my walk like an oasis. A colourful reef that I want to examine and explore. I am especially enamoured by the landscape because all of these plants grow so beautifully, creating such a magical palette, with very little water.

They grow with a determination – a courage to flourish in spite of being dry.

They grow all year round and serve as a potent reminder to me when I am feeling discouraged, or lazy, or rejected, or low. When I am reading the news and feeling baffled and sad and hopeless. When I am attempting to show an optimistic face to my kids, even though my son’s capacity to navigate three screens (small, medium, large) at any given moment makes me want to wilt. Like a plant with no water. Shrivel. Like a flower without light.

It is at these times that I need to experience that desert garden. In person. Not flashed up as an image to ‘Like’ on Instagram. Not blogged or emailed or linked. I need to feel the texture of those thick flat leaves bewteen my fingertips. I need to lean in closely and investigate the elegant formation of a delicate petal, press my flesh into the point of a cactus needle. I need to pause. Beside the garden.

And see. And touch. And smell and listen.

If  I could, I would invite each and every one of you reading these words to meet me on the corner, so we could gather together and be reminded that growth can still occur in the most unforeseen circumstances. Meaning can blossom. Love can unfurl. Words can be harvested from drought.

But I’m not  so sure how my neighbour would feel about that (I might put a note through their door first!)

So for now – let’s gather here at Write To Be You. Let’s hold out a hand to one another in the form of a story. Let’s prove that healing words can grow from concrete and parched soil. From pavements and dumpsters. From listlessness and doubt.

Our words are seeds. As long as we can share stories – the human spirit will sprout and bloom and our hearts and souls will never be malnourished.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a prompt. I hope you are still with me. Still reading. Still writing. Take a few minutes and share a story today. Write about finding something hopeful where you least expected it or write about a garden that is special to you.

In the weeks to come I will be developing a  ‘Tell Us A Story’ feature where I will share other people’s stories in the main body of the blog. Body of the blog – sounds like a horror film, but I know it will be quite the opposite – it will be pure joy!

Leave a Comment

Playing Along share the FREE Love!

images-1

Today I’m excited to be visiting another blogger and new found friend, Melissa Fu, over at her lovely site, One Tree Bohemia. Melissa is a wonderfully insightful writer and she interviewed me about my novel, Playing Along, and about Write To Be You. I enjoyed having a virtual cup of tea with her and I hope she will be visiting me in return. Melissa is an American living in the UK, and I am a Londoner living in LA – so we have much in common!

Also, Playing Along, is FREE on KINDLE today  – Wednesday 20th March and tomorrow, Thursday 21st March. If you haven’t yet downloaded a copy or would like to tell a friend or two – please do!  Share the George and Lexi love! Click HERE to download

And now, please join me with a cuppa as I chat to Melissa … Click HERE for the interview.

Ten minute writing prompt!! If you could sit and have a chat and a cup of tea with anyone – dead or alive – who would it be? What would you ask? Grab the details of the moment – how might you feel? What would you hear? Taste? Smell? See? Share your findings in the comments!

Leave a Comment

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!

Leave a Comment

Saturday Night

On Saturday night, after my glittering post publication week, I found myself in the front row of a Keane concert at The Pantages Theatre. For those of you who don’t already know, the band Keane were part of the inspiration for my novel, ‘Playing Along’. If you want to know the whole story you can read it HERE.

So there I was, with my sister and a friend, pushed up against the stage, literally centimetres from ‘the boys’ (as I like to call them.) I had a signed copy of ‘Playing Along’ in my bag and I had every intention of being brave. Being uninhibited. Being bold and finding a way to get that book onto that stage. I really thought it would be cool if the band knew they had inspired a novel.

But when it came down to it I felt a bit timid. A bit hesitant. A bit self-conscious – an insecurity I often see manifested in my kids. They are constantly worried about what other people will think. They are often convinced that the entire world is busy casting judgement on their complexion, or their father’s clothes, or how loudly the radio is playing in our car. I try to explain to them that no one cares if their Dad has a plum coloured sweater or if they have a pimple that day. But it’s hard for them to believe because we live in a society that is rife with judgement and assessment (just turn on the TV for five minutes and you will be inundated).

Feeling overly anxious about other people’s opinions has become the norm. The truth is, the people that we worry are judging us are most likely facing the same bulky obstacles themselves. We are caught in a flurry of constant assessment – disconnecting us from spontaneity.

Why this tangent now in this post? Because on Saturday I became obsessively concerned with what might happen if I tried to get the book on stage in the ‘wrong’ way!

What would people think?!

If I threw the book– it might hit Tom. If I tried to hand it to him while he was singing – he might get distracted. If I climbed on stage and gave it to him – the entire audience would be watching  and that felt far too exposing.

Basically, I was killing off the moment with my thoughts. I was beating spontaneity into a pulpy pile of second guesses. And once I realized that – I stopped thinking and I started dancing.

And when the moment presented itself – I knew that was my moment. I waved the book in the air and Tom graciously took it from my hand and smiled when he looked at the cover.

The room was alive with energy and applause and I felt alive inside. And the feeling was not unlike when I stop THINKING about what I’m going to write and just write instead. That’s when the words leap off the page and my hand won’t stop moving. That’s when someone else’s reaction is the farthest thing from my mind. That’s when the creative juices are flowing and the sparks are flying.

That’s when I feel free.

When do you feel free? Write without thinking for ten minutes. Just pick up a pen or go to your keyboard and write in response to my words. Let your words find the energy they are searching for. If nothing comes, then write nonsense. Write the word ‘nothing’. Write a list of words that you like the sound of. Stay open. Stay curious. Be free.

To everyone who has bought Playing Along this week and offered encouragement and support – I am so grateful! Thank you for helping the book take flight… the adventure has only just begun!

 

Leave a Comment
Video

2013 – Let’s Go!

Last year I danced out the new year to ‘Shake it Out’ by Florence and the Machine. This year I’m dancing into 2013 with ‘Let’s Go’ by Matt and Kim on the top of my playlist.

Today is just another day in the bigger scheme of things, but the calendar offers us the opportunity to embrace intentions – to stand in a moment and pin it down.

This is what I want to say. This is what has meaning to me…

I’m interested in momentum this year. In movement. I’m curious to keep exploring the energies that silence me and the energies that draw out my voice. I’m really excited and equally nervous about releasing ‘Playing Along’ imminently into the world.

Over this last year I have had the benefit of learning so much from the Write To Be You community. I have been awed by people’s capacity to shift something with their words – to encounter an obstacle and explore it through writing and reflection. But mostly I have been enthralled by people’s willingness to jump into the unknown when the environment makes this possible. To write with abandon and read aloud in a group before an edit. To embrace the uncertainty of what might tumble from their brain and to trust the creative process regardless.

It’s contagious – this kind of creative release. It frees us all up to discover what living authentically can truly look like.

2012, like any given year, has led us to places of deep darkness – collectively and individually. Every year we wonder will the next year be better than the last? And the answer is always elusive. The marriage of lightness and darkness will forever be our greatest challenge.

So when you do feel the life force surging – be it through writing, drawing, photographing, sculpting, playing, composing, creating, relating, loving, grieving, moving, meditating – dance with that energy. Turn up the music. Be silly this year. Be thoughtful. Be kind – to yourself and to others.

“Say what you want to say, make it mean everything…”

2013 – Let’s Go!

What intentions do you want to pin down for 2013? Be specific! Don’t set the bar too high – start small and inch towards bigger. Allow your intentions to materialise through writing. Animate them with your words. Listen to ‘Let’s Go’ and notice how the music and lyrics make you feel. Enjoy the video – it’s funny!

If you have enjoyed reading the Write To Be You blog over the last year, please consider sharing it with friends who might also be inspired by this community. Last year I planted the seed. This year I’d love to see the garden grow and spread even wider. With thanks!

 

A Small Window

When I first started writing ‘Playing Along’ I did so as an antidote to the heaviness of my ‘other’ work. I had recently completed my masters degree in psychotherapy and I was working with individual clients – adults and children – all with a range of emotional hurdles and difficulties. I saw a six year old child for a year who was a ‘selective mute’. He had stopped talking in public having lost his mother at an early age when his language was first developing. I worked with that child for a year and he never said one word to me. But he always smiled, and we played together, and we drew together, and by the end of the therapy, he was writing pages and pages of story – conveying his pain and confusion through imagination – engaging with me in the only way he knew how.

I saw children whose parents had all but abandoned them, adults who were wracked with phobias, women who had suffered sexual abuse. The work was extremely rewarding and could also be extremely draining. Psychotherapy is never a quick fix – it’s a long and often arduous journey.

So on the days I wasn’t seeing clients, a sweet, lighthearted, romance, was unravelling on my screen. It was my tonic. A salve to sooth the darker aspects of my work. An opportunity for me to escape into a world where lead singers fall in love with their fans and destiny trumps reality.

I needed that space. It helped me to be more present for my clients. And my clients helped me to be more present for my characters.

Despite the fact I was writing a ‘breezy ‘ read – I still wanted George and Lexi and all their family and freinds to have dimension. I wanted them to be people that you, as the reader, could relate to and might want to know.

News wise this has been another oppressively desolate week. We are all asking ‘could things get any worse?’ and we don’t want to hear the answer. We share a collective grief which is washing over us in waves. Rightly so we are becoming involved in dialogues about gun control, mental health care and accountability.

My heart is beating at home, moving through the motions of my day, but my heart has also travelled to Newton, where it sits silently with all those bereft, sending out love and solidarity.

I questioned whether today was the day to post an excerpt from ‘Playing Along’ and I decided for all the reasons above – that it was.

I wrote the book in the first place to provide a small window of escape. Even in our darkest hours, carving out space for lightness and humour can be a soothing reminder of hope. So if you need a break from reading the news or watching the television, take a few minutes and get to know George and Lexi. They helped balance me out when I was searching for relief.

(If you want to skip the excerpt and save yourself for the book, please scroll down to the writing prompt at the bottom!)

PLAYING ALONG

by Rory Samantha Green

THEN

GEORGE, 1st November, 1994, Stanford in the Vale, Oxfordshire

“Your brother’s grown up a bit, hasn’t he?”

George holds his breath when he hears these words swoop past his bedroom door. He’s thirteen, but his sister is two years older and her friends are an enigma.  They smell like grapefruit and cigarettes and layer mascara on their lashes until they look like pandas.  Most of them have boobs.  Big ones.  He’s fascinated by the divide.  George’s sister, Polly, has maybe said one word to him in the last two weeks and that was muttered in disdain when he had mistakenly knocked her make-up brush off the counter and into the toilet.  It had floated forlornly in the bowl like a drowned rodent.

“Arsehole!”

But now there’s a chance of redemption.  Despite his skinny legs and spotty rounded face, it seems as if one of the awesome grapefruit girls has noticed something in him.  Something unique.  He reckons it will take a very special woman to appreciate his nuances.  His love of Grover from Sesame Street (so underrated – why did Kermit get all the limelight?) and his adoration of the most amazing music the universe has to offer – Bowie, U2, Portishead, Dylan, New Order.  The woman who takes his heart must take his record collection as well.

“My brother?” replies Polly in dramatic shock.  “Yeah, you could say he’s grown up – into a first rate troll.”

The grapefruit girls giggle and their laughter snakes under his door and rings painfully in his ears.  George bites his bottom lip, scraping his teeth against peeling skin. Another nervous habit.

“And listen to this… he claims one day he’s going to be in a famous band and be on the cover of NME and have groupies.  What a joke!”

George, prepared for the inevitable cackle of mockery, grabs his headphones and his CD player and presses play with an urgency.  “Fools Gold” by the Stone Roses floods his brain.  He turns up the volume as loud as it will go and hurls his notebook across the room where it ricochets off the wall and slides under his bed.  The notebook is filled with songs.  George has been unpacking heartache from his sensitive soul since the age of ten.

His sister’s harsh words are never as brutal as the words he calls himself.

He knows what he wants, but he’s pretty damn certain that a boy like him is never going to get it.

LEXI, November 1st, 1994, Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, California

“I’m psyched about the game tomorrow!”  Andrew enthusiastically polishes off his second burrito, gazing longingly at Lexi across the table.  She smiles at him mischievously knowing that she drives him crazy with her Juicy Fruit breath, her shiny brown hair, and her legs which have conveniently slimmed out and toned up since she started diligently attending an after school kickboxing class.

“I’m excited too,” she replies, playfully nudging his size twelve basketball shoes under the table.  “I hope you win, so we can celebrate.”

Lexi and Andrew are the couple at Pali High.  Just embarking on their senior year, they have been an item since the eleventh grade.  Andrew first kissed Lexi on Zuma beach with the waves lapping at their bare feet two nights after passing his driving test.  His parents had given him a convertible Mustang for his sixteenth birthday and when he drove her home, one hand on the wheel, the other holding hers, Lexi had a sweet taste lingering in her mouth and salty wind in her hair.

“So unfair,” her best friend, Meg, had complained the following morning.  “It’s not supposed to happen like that.  He’s supposed to drool, or run out of gas, or step on your toe or something.  Why is your life like an Audrey Hepburn movie and mine like a bad TV sitcom?”

And Lexi certainly didn’t want to be smug, but there was some truth in Meg’s observation.  Things just seemed to go her way.  Her parents had raised her to believe in herself and face life with a positive outlook.  Not that she was syrupy or self-obsessed.   She worked hard at her studies and had an excellent Grade Point Average.  She volunteered at a local homeless shelter, fingerpainting with vulnerable kids after school.  She’d started up a current events debate club in her junior year and persuaded many of her friends to join.  They now competed nationally.  Oh and of course, she kickboxed and played on the girls’ volleyball team, and thankfully had the sort of hair that didn’t frizz on damp mornings when the fog rolled in off the coast.

Lexi had lost her virginity to Andrew on the floor in his bedroom on a Sunday afternoon while his parents shopped at Target.  He had lit a scented candle stolen from his mother’s bathroom, and the smell of orange mimosa flooded the room.  “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by UB40 was playing on his CD player.

When it was over (slightly painful, but not nearly as uncomfortable as she had imagined), he leaned on his elbows beside her and whispered in her ear, “I can’t help falling in love with you…” One year later, sitting opposite him watching him wipe guacamole from the side of his lips, Lexi feels in her heart that she loves him too.  In fact she is sure, along with almost everyone else at Pali High who either knows them or admires them from afar, that they will most likely end up getting married.  Lexi’s mother has saved her own wedding dress for the occasion, wrapped in delicate layers of archival tissue in an ivory box on the top shelf of her cupboard.  “It’s just waiting, my beauty,” her mother has promised.

Lexi can picture their home now (a cozy New England style house, a few blocks from her parents, with whitewashed floors and shabby chic couches), two or maybe three kids (she really doesn’t have a preference for boys or girls) and most definitely a dog, a black Labrador called George.  She imagines a fulfilling and creative part time job as well, maybe a teacher or an art therapist, something that leaves her with the freedom to be a hands-on mom.  So what if she is only seventeen?  It’s just a dream, but life has already proven to Lexi that dreams do find a way of coming true.

NOW

GEORGE, 1st November, 2009, Greenwich, England

“George… I love you!”  On certain nights this professed love is yelled out a hundred times from men and women alike.  Most nights it disappears into the roar of the crowd, but at some gigs a single voice will miraculously separate out and hover above the throng of faceless fans and George hears it and needs it to be true.

George is at the piano finishing the final chords of “Beyond Being,” a poignant ballad based on his teenage existential musings and a lyric which popped into his head one day as he polished off a carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream.  The audience sways in time and cell phones punctuate the blackness like rechargeable flames.  George hangs his head as the song comes to a quiet end, his voice wavering with a sad clarity.

Thousands of fans cheer and whoop in adoration and George looks up shyly with his trademark grin.  “Thank you very much for coming.  We appreciate you might have better things to do with your Saturday nights, like watching X Factor, and the boys and I really enjoyed playing to you tonight…”  This, as intended, whips up the crowd into an even louder frenzy as George and his band mates lope off the stage with a schoolboy charm that has captivated fans across the world from Denmark to Chile, and every destination in between.

George has come a long way from the corner of his brown bedroom.  His band, Thesis, stormed onto the music scene with an unstoppable force after his best mate and guitarist, Simon Ogden-Smith, persuaded George to start up a Myspace page and stream some of their music. George, Simon, Simon’s cousin Mark, and Mark’s sister’s friend Duncan from Australia, had been playing local pubs in Islington and had been slowly building up a loyal fan base.  But the Myspace page catapulted them into a whole new stratosphere, and with a swiftness which at times found George’s throat closing with unprecedented anxiety, they burst onto the alternative music scene and made their mark.  Three months after being signed by a record company they were flown to Los Angeles to record their first album, Twelve Thousand Words.  George Bryce, still a sweaty lonely teenager at heart, found himself surrounded by attractive, fawning women called Claudia and Agnes and Nell.  They willingly offered their breasts to him without any pleading involved and he indulged in a whole new adolescence at twenty-two.

The band’s first big hit was a rocking anthem called “Grapefruit Girls,” an opportunity for George to get his revenge on those elusive females who had inducted him into the hall of shame.  George became an unlikely heartthrob, a self-deprecating lad who wore T-shirts with Grover on them and gave interviews about obscure comic books and rare vinyl.  His boyish looks, lopsided smile and thick shaggy black hair, once his greatest insecurity, suddenly became irresistible.  Even America, notoriously hard to break for an unheard-of alternative band, lapped up the accents and the awkwardness.  Critics either loved or hated Thesis and George made a point of reading every review, because no matter how famous they became, he never stopped caring about what people thought of him.

COMING IN JANUARY 2013!

Thank you for joining me on this writing adventure! I began my love of writing by hiding my words. I was a ‘closet’ writer. I’m out now and I encourage you to do the same!

Share something in the comments. Today’s prompt: take ten minutes to write about where you find lightness during periods of dark? Where can you access healthy relief and release?

I am taking a week off for the holidays so until we meet again…  peace, blessings and gratitude from me to you xo

Leave a Comment
Page 1 of 512345