Monday, January 26, 2015


My Mother, Northern Ireland, 1960's
Last night, I dreamed my mother lived longer than she did. That she was alive, now, and revealing to me two surprising things: she A) is really into Sade now(this from a woman who listened almost exclusively to classical music) and B) now wears make-up and gets her hair blown out once a week (no make-up, only done-up hair was a big bun she wore her hip-length, uncut hair in daily). I asked her, "Where have you been hiding your Sade tapes all these years? In your Chopin cassette cases?" and she smirked and nodded.

Saturday January 24th was the 18th anniversary of her death. Having spent a few days recently with her longest-term friend - her bestie from Kindergarten - having done TRE and spent time working through old triggers related to my interactions with her - having mourned who she may have been becoming when she died, and who she may have become had she lived - the anniversary passed subtlely, sort of subconsciously.

I slogged through prostrations, felt worn and sad but also alive. Little conscious thought or process, plenty of body awareness of loss. It's powerful, this grief, ever-changing and sometimes more subtle, sometimes more strong. When people ask me - is it always the same? How does it change? My answers vary depending on audience - have they faced a major loss? Are they asking out of ignorance, curiosity or because they want to know if their own struggle is normal? Are they a spectator or a cohort member? And my answers change based on how I feel.

18 years ago I became an orphan. Something about this feels powerful to me: I have now been without parents for an "adult" amount of time. Recently an image came to me of "giving birth to my mother" - it didn't "make sense" until now. Now something is shifting, seismic level. The TRE is releasing trauma deep in my hips, letting co-dependence slip less frequently out of my lips. My neck loosens, softens. There's some kind of shift happening.

I am an adult at being an orphan. This is a new life, all over again. Next year, a year from now, she will have been gone half my life: half my life with a mother, half without. I cannot say exactly what it is, but it feels something like this: this year, 2015, is some kind of window. It feels like wanting to finish my memoir, Bermuda Triangles. It feels like I can see all her old friends this year and feel some opening as well as closure at the same time. It feels like stories I've told are changing forever, for good, for better. I am independent now, not as chained to my grief. Individuating from my orphan self, while also integrating.

Something is finishing, and something is beginning. Something is slipping away and I am finding something else in its place. The slippery life of grief, the slippery stories of memory. I feel strong, sad and clear. For now.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Day Off Syndrome

Welcome to my life.

Well, my mind's version of my life, anyway, which is what often runs the narrative.

I have a day off coming up tomorrow, the first in over a week. I taught a four-day writing retreat last weekend, then traveled for a day (not a day off, especially when flying across the country!), then participated in a four-day teacher training. So tomorrow, Monday, whooo boy. Do I ever want to sink into you with nothing to do.

Only there are emails. Lots of them. Behind on clients' images and words, in need of catching up. Not the whole day - I don't do *that* anymore, at least (some of my workaholic-ness is put to rest). But I'll need to do some. And those online classes that need to get up and running. And, and and...

Monday, January 05, 2015

The Underbelly of Obsessive Thinking

Here's something I have known about myself for decades, and it trips me up every time.

When I do something to someone that hurts their feelings, I get concerned. This is natural, of course. I worry I could have done it better, found a way to make it less hurtful (yes, I am, after all, a Midwestern woman), or avoided hurting them altogether.

Then it gets complicated. Turns into obsessing. Quickly.
From this point on, my thinking contorts into a manifold, manifested obsession. It's a bit hard to track, seeing as how it is so complex and a bit dark and full of shame/blame, but it looks something like this, with all these thoughts turning and churning over each other in no particular order:

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Intention

Every December in the last few years, I have practiced an adaptation of a game/exercise/prompt that visiting friends did with us five years ago. At that time, they mentioned they had begun to set an intention word for the year - a word to explore, to replace "resolutions" and instead be curious. That first year, my partner and I both chose "consumption" and explored that relationship via food, money and more throughout the year with as little aggression and as much curiosity as we could.

The next year, I picked another task-y like word, but the last few years I've been picking more open words, verbs like 2013's "Play," or 2014's "Breathe." This year, in late November I started to feel the call of intention words, exploring candidates like "Balance" that came to me on their own accord. After being pretty sure for a couple of weeks that "Balance" was the winner, I stumbled into "Value" in writing one day and realized it had a lot more juice: challenge, fear, power - than "Balance." So my 2015 word is "Value."

Here's the prompt I used at the beginning of 2014 for my writing classes to find their intention word:
I want you to find a word:
an intention word/s, a sankalpa*, for this year.

Explore. Play. Find a word or words or
start writing and let the word or words find you.
Try to soften and let it happen.

This is not a resolution.
This is not expectation.
This is finding a word or words you can weave into all you do for the next year.

If you already have an intention word, use this time to break it open.
Experiment with future six word stories for 2015.
Let the word/s fall apart and show you what they have to really say.
In my New Year's Intention Retreat, the first weekend of the year (this year's is this upcoming weekend), we use a period of silent contemplation to invite the word to come to us, then contemplate all the associations/meanings that arise, then write. The key factor is to INVITE the word, rather than forcing it or searching for it. 

Many folks find that one "doesn't come" the first time around, that they find many or none. That's fine. Keep staying open to what words want to attach to you for the next span of time.

This year, I am adding in work based on Danielle LaPorte's Desire Map. The gist of her work, though getting the book is both useful and powerful, is to search for - or invite - three or more words that match how you want to FEEL in any/all of your activities, so you can use them as feedback to see if what you are doing matches how you want to be feeling. I will be offering some exercises in this direction this weekend as well. I find her approach - instead of affirmations or resolutions or goals, looking for a felt sense of result and aiming for that - quite useful and in compliment to setting New Year's Intentions.

Play. Explore. Invite. If you have ways you use to prepare for the New Year, leave them here.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Compassion: A Short Fiction Story

I get to offer you another incredible piece written by a student for my prompt on Compassion a few weeks ago. As always, it is unedited, written rawly this way. Powerful stuff.

This one blew all of us away. This student, Kika, doesn't usually write in fiction and we were immediately pulled into the world she describes - the snow, the insect, the mug, the window.

The ambiguity she addresses was universal in so many student writings that week. Compassion: we want it to be easy and clean. But it isn't.

Please enjoy.

Compassion. It was the guiding force in her life - or at least, she liked to think so.

As she watched the bundled humans toddle past in their heavy boots and scarves, Clementine noticed an insect crawling up the window pane. It had a long, narrow body and bowed legs, with delicate wings in four sections. It was a pale green color, at odds with the weather, and it used its antennae to gently tap the glass, as it it, too, wanted to be out in the snow, moving through that fresh glittering white. Where had it come from? Clementine was overcome with tenderness at its unlikely presence, its fragility, its ghostly vernal beauty. She looked at the glass again; such a thin pane, old enough that cool drafts seeped from it, causing her to clutch the mug of tea more tightly. It had been a bad idea to put cold cream in the tea. In December it was always best to heat the cream, so both vessel and drink stayed hotter longer. A warm kind of company, almost like holding hands with someone you love.