Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Transition or Rupture: Which Empowers?

Transition or Rupture?
Yesterday as I read Mama Gena's blog post Immobilized and Falling Apart, I felt uncomfortable when she referred to what she described as "rupturing" because of bad things happening in life in order to come back together stronger. It's not that I haven't experienced traumatic experiences or dealt with heartache, betrayal, and loss. It was that, while at some point in my life, I may have identified with the idea of it being a rupture, I've come to a different place. I now think of these "ruptures" as transitions. They show me the bits of me that remain in my core regardless of what happens while showing me what I need to release. I am connected to the trauma and I feel it deeply, I don't believe it destroys, or somehow defines, me. I  acknowledge it, feel it, search it for possible lessons it holds, but I put my focus on what in my life I can actually heal or change or control.

I don't fall apart, at least not in the screaming, ranting, raving, sobbing uncontrollably sense. What she described felt like a description of someone I used to be until I discovered that way of being just didn't work for me. It tended to make things worse rather than better, at least for me. I'm not saying how anyone else should react because we must each do what works for us.

I don't pretend everything is okay or that what hurts doesn't hurt, and I'm not advocating that anyone pretend as such. I'm simply more interested in moving forward through the pain and anguish to embrace life in all its fullness again. I think this is ultimately what Mama Gena is recommending as well. She just describes the process of rupturing in a way that no longer serves me.We need to understand that what works for one person may not work for another. I feel everything - the good and the bad - deeply and passionately, but I don't allow myself to spiral into a place where I can no longer see the path forward to the life I deserve. I don't dissolve in a heap nor do I rant and rave.

I can't even imagine ranting and raving or dissolving in a heap. It sounds like a tremendous waste of energy. As I recall, those time in my life when I handled trauma in such a way, it was a tremendous waste of energy and often left me needing to clean up a mess that didn't need to exist.

There was a point in my life when I would have ranted and raved and screamed and shouted and complained and sobbed to everyone in the world about the injustices in my life. These days, I prefer to spend some time in quiet meditation and perhaps have a quiet conversation with a trusted friend or two that allows me to see the reality of the situation in order to move forward without getting bogged down in how awful the injustice is. I sometimes quietly cry in a hot bath and release my pain and the baggage along with it in order to clear my thoughts and emotions.

Most times, a perspective shift to accept reality and find options is enough to get life moving forward again. That doesn't dull the pain of a betrayal or loss or heartache, but it focuses my energy in a place to do what's best for me. Focusing my energy on the pain tends to deplete me of positive energy, and that doesn't serve me. Focusing my energy on what is within my power to resolve or change about what hurts takes me to a place that allows me to handle my grief over a situation in a way that always brings me back to my center.

I don't feel like any less of a woman for my choice to react in a manner some might view as dispassionate or detached. My reaction is neither. It is simply my choice to response to my circumstances in the way that best serves me. After all, they are my circumstances. It is my reaction. This is my life. This is my choice. I choose to be who I am and handle the devastation that pops up in my life as transitions rather than ruptures.

Transition empowers me; rupture disempowers me.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Hopscotch Through Life

I loved hopscotch when I was a little girl. My favorite hopscotch didn't follow the usual pattern. It had a

block in the middle with triangles so small they required us to tiptoe even as small children.

I loved it. Throw or roll the stone to the right block and then hop according to the lay of the stone, one square at a time starting at one and going to ten. If time permitted, we returned from ten back down to one. 

We sometimes switched the game up and did a "random roll" where we had to skip whichever square we landed on instead of rolling to the squares in order. Sometimes we played a random roll version where we didn't pick our stones on the return and we had to skip every square with a stone. Or we had to hop the number of times of each square. One hop on square one, two hops on square two, three on three, nine on the four/five combo (or we took these individually and did the number on the square) and so on.

I never bored of hopscotch even when I pretended like I did because my friends decided it was no longer cool.

The other night I watched a commercial (I forget for what product) but the question it asked was what if we designed our lives based on children? One of the examples was a marble hopscotch game built into the floor of a home.The commercial seemed to be pointing out that it wasn't practical to design a home around children, but all I could think was I'd love to have a hopscotch grid built into the floor of my home. I'd hopscotch across it every time I passed it. Imagine you stop, toss the stone, hop across, go do whatever needs doing, and when you return do your return hop picking up the stone. Then wait until the next time, it's time to pass the grid for one's next turn. How cool would that be?

Life often resembles a game of hopscotch. We wake up each morning, look at all the demands on our attention, toss a metaphorical stone or two or ten, decide which thing(s) get skipped, focus on balancing ourselves to accomplish the others, pick up the stone as we retire for the night, and set it aside to toss again the next morning. This idea inspired me to write a poem and now this post.

My perspective shifted when I thought of life as a game of hopscotch. When I wake up in the morning, I keep asking myself what will today's hopscotch bring? Which squares will I skip? Which squares will leave me teetering on tiptoes? Which squares will I land on fully grounded? Which squares will force me out of bounds? Which squares will send me back to the beginning?

As I look at each of life's responsibilities, I see that most of them have their own subset of hopscotch squares... So even as I roll the stone for my major group, each subgroup requires me to decide which item(s) will be skipped within the group leaving me with a whole hopscotch of hopscotch grids to pull my attention this way and that teetering and tottering to balance the important things in life.

How's your game of hopscotch going? Did you skip any squares today? Did you teeter on tiptoes? Did you land fully on any squares?

Monday, October 21, 2013

I Am... Am Not

Remember that childhood argument that always started with an insult and quickly degraded into the exchange "Am not...Are too... Am not...Are too" continuing endlessly and growing louder with each "Am not... Are too..." accompanied by the sticking out of the tongue and other not so kind gestures?

As adults we sometimes have this argument with ourselves. Or at least I know I do. We argue with ourselves about who we are as we look in the mirror. It becomes increasingly clear I'm not alone as I communicate with friends who struggle with the dichotomy of who they are. We argue with the person we think we are, the person we want to be, the person others think we are, and the person others expect us to be.

Far too often we stare in the mirror and the image staring back says something we don't recognize. I've been there a few times in my life. We feel strong, but we see weakness. We feel vulnerable, but we see protective. We feel exhilarated, but we see exhaustion. We feel loving, but we see indifference. We feel acceptable, but we see something unacceptable. And on and on it goes. The argument within our beings that pushes us from knowing who we are to being who we are in any given moment.

Many of us feel we lose ourselves in love, but isn't it better to find ourselves in love? Love should bring us into our best selves rather than make us feel lost in our feelings for someone else. This can only happen when we love ourselves deeply enough to remove ourselves from situations where we aren't loved for who we are. This is rarely easy, but sometimes it must be done.

I find this dilemma appears often in my writing, whether in my poetry, my short stories, or my novels. I suspect I will discover it alive and well in my upcoming book on gratitude as well. It's one of those universal themes I find fascinating to explore.

When we look at the sum total of who we are, we often see things we like and things we hate. Thus begins the "Am not... Am too" game we play with ourselves. Oddly, enough while as children we defended ourselves about insults, as adults we tend to use the "Am not... Am too" game to attack our positive attributes. We've been so conditioned to not embrace all that is glorious and fabulous about ourselves because to do so breaks some rule about being humble. But I say it's time to let our inner children play "Am not... Am too" to attack the negative scripts we so easily embrace and replace them with the positive.

So the next time that little voice tells us we're unacceptable, we need scream "am not" at the top of our lungs. And the next time it tells us we are acceptable, we need to scream "am too" or better yet "you bet I am."

How about it? Ready for a game of "Am too... Am not" - children's style!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Breaking Out of the Writing Box

As  a writer, I'm well aware some people will like it and some people won't. There's a part of me that wants everyone to like everything I write no matter how unreasonable I know that desire to be... I work hard to write words that will speak to my readers and enrich their lives in some way, however large or small.

I often reign in my writing so as to not break some rule or the other, but particularly the "rule" that the prose in fiction shouldn't be noticeable. Without even realizing it, I've let this "rule" stifle my writing progress for far too long trying to fit the idea of writing commercially. I have an unfinished novel, a finished but unedited novel, a nonfiction book about gratitude, and a collection of short stories that are all suffering because I have let this notion that writer's prose shouldn't be noticeable when the reader reads control me. I fear that if I write the way my heart and soul tell me to write, people will accuse me of trying to show off even though that's never my intention when I put words together. I simply enjoy putting together words in creative and inventive ways.

What I've come to realize though is that the more we write with commercialization in mind, the more interchangeable our work is. When I read a book that is so devoid of the author's voice I have to check the front cover to see who wrote the book, I feel cheated. Please understand I'm not laying the blame solely on authors here. Our publishing industry has trained us all to write alike, to follow the rules, to not tackle subjects that make readers uncomfortable or to tackle them in a way that doesn't challenge people's beliefs, to create stereotypical characters, and to write to a formula they know how to sell. This attitude has become ingrained in the psyche of many of us. We have to dig it out and crush it under our heels.

When I come across a book that breaks those molds, I remember why I love reading.

I've lost a lot of my zeal for reading over the past several years as I read more and more books that sounded just like the last book I read. I've read series in which I can't tell you which book is which because they all read the same. I've read books where one author could have have been interchanged with another, and I wouldn't have known the difference. I've read books that have clearly been labeled with a misleading genre tag that is a blatant attempt to corner a popular genre market. I've read books that follow a formula so strictly I know exactly what is going to happen by the time I reach page three and read on only to see if I'm right. Usually, I am, for the most part. I've become bored by books that fit so easily into one formula or the other.

I've grown weary of authors policing and criticizing other authors for their choices regarding writing, publishing, and/or publicity efforts. Everyone hates something other people do and everyone does something other people hate. It's a never ending battle that keeps writers from finding their own voice, from exploring their own unique writing style, from pursuing that which sets their work apart from everyone else. (Yes, for all you haters of the word unique, I said unique, and I meant it. I'm not one bit sorry.)

Recently, I saw an argument among writers about the "rules" for writing, and I sighed. I've read this argument far too many times, and the one thing I know about it is that it never changes. When I read these arguments that writers should always use proper grammar in every single sentence they write, I can't help but roll my eyes... Don't misunderstand me, I'm a fan of using proper grammar, but can you imagine how stilted a book would read if writers truly followed that rule? Because if you look at the letter of the rule and not the spirit of the rule that means even conversation would need to be written in proper grammar meaning the characters would end up mostly indistinguishable during conversation. I don't know about you, but my life is populated with people who rarely, if ever, use proper grammar... I know I'm guilty of often using improper grammar in conversation.

And, then there's the whole adverb rule... sighs... Dare I say it? I'm probably about to lose my place at the writers' table. Sometimes you need an adverb. Okay, writing police, there you go. I said it. Not only that I put it in writing. Sometimes you need an adverb or even two. See there's this other rule about avoiding wordiness... Yeah, sometimes an adverb serves that purpose. I have never, ever read a book that was completely adverb free, even those who argue most stridently against adverbs use them, often even in their arguments against adverbs. I agree that overuse of adverbs is lazy writing, but a well placed adverb can ratchet up tension while eliminating wordiness. All words exist for a reason, even the widely maligned adverb.

And, don't even get me started on the whole use of the word said or its lovely siblings and cousins... Again, sometimes necessary and sometimes not... It's a judgment call. Use your best judgment.

And  then there's the whole cliche thing, which I admit is a pet peeve for me, but let's face it there are areas where people communicate in cliches as much as, perhaps more than, in any other way. So there are even times when a writer must use a cliche or two, as much as I hate to admit it...

I've come to believe that if we listen to all the rules someone else has set in place, we would never write a single word. How could we? Depending on the source you read, everything is acceptable and everything is unacceptable...

Recently, while reading Auburn McCanta's lyrical and haunting All the Dancing Birds , I felt a shift in my thinking. I stopped approximately one-third of the way through the book to contact Auburn to thank her for reminding me to write the way I want to write and let my readers judge my work instead of worrying about breaking a bunch of rules I had no say in setting. McCanta used language to her advantage in the writing of her book in a way I rarely see these days. If you want to see more about my reaction to All the Dancing Birds, see my review of it on Reviews with TLC.

The allure of finding an agent, a publisher, and someone to lock in me a little writing box never appealed to me, but I tried to push myself into that box even as every instinct fought it. My writing suffered because I was trying to be something I'm not. 

I'm done trying to fit into the mold of what anyone else tells me a writer should write.

I find it easier to write without worrying about the "rules" when writing poetry... Fiction on the other hand is a whole other book... 

Maybe I'll never have the success of some authors, but at least at the end of the day, I'll be able to say I stayed true to myself, my voice, and the stories my characters want me to tell.