Saturday, 19 August 2017

An Anthem for the Non-Haters by India Arie

An anthem for these days: 





This performance speaks to me on so many levels in the face of what feels like helpless.

Breath is the centre of my work.

And one little line in there made me think a certain someone put this song in front of me.

Take a moment to turn it up.

Listen.

And breathe. 

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Human seeking Human



Flashback to nursing school in 1981.

The near elderly nursing instructor, with her pillbox white hat pinned to her short hair, purses her painted red lips, eyes narrow to a "don't mess with me" gaze, "Don't ever, I mean ever, let me hear of you crying or becoming emotional in front of a patient."

Fast forward to therapy training where we were made to unpack every bit of our historical baggage, analyse it (or have it analysed) and neatly re-stack it onto the moving train called "Life," done and dusted, never to need to be re-opened as you received your ordination as the great Oz.

And the great Oz we all were.

Standing behind the heavy, dank drape, puppeting what we'd been taught to approach a patient with, in any given situation, as if it was a game of Battleship. Patient has moved to F5 (turbulent waters of heightened anxiety) return hit with D2 (3 sessions focussing on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).

Don't let them see you sweat.

Never risk countertransference.
Don't talk about yourself.
Never show that you've had your own issues.

Watch your body language; stiff and professional but open.

And many of my colleagues did not need these reminders: They felt so full of their own damn selves, after becoming credentialed, that they swore off ever having to see a practitioner in their own field. As if it was a sign of weakness.

After all, they were the expert now.

Fully realising that much of that training was put into place to help contain the renegades that had primarily gone into the field to heal their own battle scars, the training in non-humanness (of superiority) certainly has had a lasting effect on some of those in the helping field.  Psychotherapists, counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers-- any type of helper or "healer."

Supervision frequently is spent ticking off a list of "cases"(excuse me, but those are people)  rather than discussing any emotional upheaval you are having in your own life.


Groundbreaking research by Scott Miller et al. was responsible for the first crack in my already gaping armour. Their research showed that it wasn't the modality of therapy that warranted a positive outcome; it was the client's perception of the relationship with their therapist that correlated with optimal outcomes.

I loved it.

All the experts that hid behind further labels and initials of the particular type of specialty therapy had their cover blown.

And really no mystery at all, it answered the question of why some of the most brilliant practitioners, who had the information down like the back of their hand, couldn't manage to hold a client list and had to venture out into some other derivative that had not been in their initial plan.(people want their information to be held and honoured by other people-- not robotic knowledge-holders)

With further years under my belt, 22 as a psychotherapist and 35 total in mental health/human services, life has happened. 
With a capital L. 

I won't list it all here to spare you the shock but (gasp), me and the members of my family and social (whanau) network are totally human, therefore there has been trauma and crisis and relationship issues and all sorts of big and juicy ingredients of life.
I'm not writing this as a pubic service announcement for myself, I'm writing this for the consumer; the person that might be looking for a therapist and for the wounded therapists out there.  

The same as I really don't want to speak with someone about my parenting angst if they have never had children (seriously, you will totally get this once you have kids people)– do I want to speak with someone that hasn't peered into life's abyss when I am feeling shattered?
For all of you helpers out there– if you are holding up a facade of everything is always peachy in my life: Let it down.

Do your work so that you may do more effective work with your clientele.
If you are seeking help?

It's okay to ask your potential therapist if they have had any personal experience in this particular terrain.
And if the response is, "We are here to talk about you, not me?"

Run like hell.


























































Tuesday, 13 June 2017

13 REASONS WHY: the verdict

          

This is written from the perspective of a former teenager, a mental health professional who has worked with many people experiencing suicidal ideation or whom have attempted suicide, a former high school counsellor, a psychotherapist that saw a fair amount of teenagers in her private practice, a person who has been at the aftermath of one too many suicides and a mother with a blended family of nine.

We can talk until we are blue in the face about the reality of working with this clientele– practicing boundaries to keep myself sane working with such complex people feeling absolutely despondent. Tortured. 

But, it's helping during the aftermath that was always the hardest.

It was the aftermath that has made me go into my own teenager's room late at night after returning from a scene and beg them to swear to me they will never, ever, resort to taking their own life.

And the aftermath that has made me already have that talk with my almost 13 year old.

Granted I've been a bit "checked out" from popular culture over the past six months, but I first began hearing about the Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" relatively recently and always from a negative context. 

We shouldn't be exposing our kids to the topic of suicide.

Aren't we just giving them ideas?

How can they show graphic scenes of a suicide?

The show doesn't even mention depression in the context of the suicide.

So I decided to watch it. 

With my professional background and being a parent, I thought maybe I could have an informed critique. 

And I was extremely impressed with the handling of the topic and the overall production.  

The following are some thoughts on the matter intermingled with a few things to consider if you are contemplating your child watching the show.

Let's start with the big stuff: The graphic portrayal of suicide. 

First take a moment and ponder how much violence on television or movies or video games or language that you think your kids have been exposed to during their lifetime.  Unless you are homeschooling sans TV or electronics and living out in the wilderness, I strongly doubt that your children have not been exposed to gratuitious violence.

The suicide scene is on the last episode. It starts when the counter is at 23:15 and by 20:00 when I remembered to look back at the time the entire scene, including her being found, was well and truly over. 

Skip it if you want to avoid that scene. It's a split second within the entire series and you don't have to see it.  If you are in the camp of hear no, see no, speak no, this may sound kind of disgusting, but it was handled as respectfully as it could have possibly been and if we expose ourselves and others to watching others' deaths for entertainment? This is not the issue on which people need to be focusing their disagreement with the show.

From what I'd read I expected that there were flashbacks to the scene all throughout the episodes. 

There were not.

In fact, the cause of death was not discussed much. It was reflected in a hallucinatory scene with Clay at a school dance, with Hannah appearing on the gym floor bleeding from her wrists (the only other suggestively graphic scene and nothing kids haven't seen if they've watched horror flicks or any violence-- less bloody than Carrie).  And at some point someone mentions Hannah slitting her wrists.  

The gym scene carries great weight because by then you really care about and "get" Hannah, so yes, it touches your heart. Which is what we want from ourselves and teens. Empathy. A NO, how could she do that, she had so much to live for reaction.

So no, I did not feel that the mode of suicide was handled gratuitously.  It could have been so much more graphic. They were thoughtful.

What I do realise within that conversation is that it is the fear of the aftermath that keeps people so afraid of watching or having their teens watch that scene.

The thought that we might be a party to our teen picking up on any ideas and that we could possibly ever walk into a scene such as that is overwhelming and it's just easier to keep that topic on the back shelf.

However, this leads to my second point.

I'm strongly inclined to believe that this piece is maybe even more important for adults to watch than teens. Parents, school staff, counsellors, psychologists, coaches and the like. 

In fact, if I ran a high school (rue the day) I'd want to conduct a mandatory group watching and processing of each episode. 

The processing would be as much about sexual discrimination and assault as the headline topic of this series. These issues are rampant and the socialising of that behaviour starts in these communities. 

It needs to stop.

Although prevention of suicide is an important topic, the comments I read saying that it was absolutely wrong for "13 reasons" to say the suicide had anything to do with others' actions, it was depression, were possibly covering for their discomfort at thinking it could be possible to drive another to suicide.

When a young child or teen kills themselves my first question is "what were they trying to escape from?" 

Rarely does their suicidal despondency arrive in a vacuum. There's frequently a last straw. And in those age groups you start looking at where in their lives they were feeling trapped or marginalised or helpless. 

And sometimes it's like the perfect student who was cheerful at home and school and had no recent issues or stressors and one day received a below satisfactory mark on a test and fearing her father's disappointment left school early, drove down her long driveway and shot herself before her parents arrived home.

Tragic.

It happens. Out of nowhere sometimes. That's why parenting or looking after children is a daunting task not for the feint of heart.

13 reasons displays layer by layer the complexities of the high school relationships and hierarchy. It shows us how little, we as parents or school staff, really know about what is going on between these kids and each other inside and outside the school's walls.

I had the privilege of hearing stories, in confidence, behind closed doors when I worked in the U.S. from many teens. 

Nothing I saw on "13 Reasons Why" shocked me. 

It should have.

It's disgusting that it didn't.

Even almost fifteen years ago the stories coming from small rural farming communities in mid-America about sex parties, alcohol, drugs, and the like, were mind-blowing. 

And my kids wondered why I was "strict." I was hearing from the front lines and there was no way I could keep my head in the sand.

In my biological kids' own prosperous suburban school district the number of suicides was staggering. 

So friends, we can negate a show that illustrates what our teens are really being exposed to or just ignore it all, keeping your head deeply immersed in the sand. 

Either way suicides and rapes and harassment are still going to occur, but I'd argue that the only way they may lessen is if we all stop playing ostrich and pretending that, no, this doesn't happen in our world and start looking around and having the difficult conversations.  

Within our families. 

Within our communities. 

Within our schools. 

Depression? Here's a newsflash. 

Depression in teens doesn't look like it does in other populations. 

No, this show didn't talk about depression too much, but it sure as hell illustrated it. To the point that (without giving too much away) I was able to correctly project some future behaviours based on the great acting and foresight the writers and directors had as they went episode to episode.

For the record, teen depression frequently gets missed because a teen may show behavioural changes and signs at home such as increased irritability, less interest in things, more isolating (although isolating at this age is frequently developmentally appropriate as the teen explores there independence). They may even be able to say, "I'm so depressed." Or "I'm not sleeping and feel horrible." 

But herein lies the rub– frequently the depressed teen can go out and socialise and want to hang with their friends and appear "ok" and automatically the adults feel all is well

Parents may even lay it on harder because how dare you try to get out of responsibility saying your depressed or stressed but you are well and good when you hang out with your friends. 

Insert huge conflict right here, which does nothing for anyone's mood.

Forget the deep and important subjects of drugs and alcohol but in the above scenario, the peers are the teens drug of choice. And they do feel better out in that scene. 

That doesn't have to negate there can also be a deep depressive process going on which will make them even more susceptible to the cruelty of the teenage terrain.

Even writing this opens up a Pandora's box that I do not have the room to sort through here: issues of alcohol and substance abuse; internet use and abuse; cyberbullying; sexual responsibility; consent; sexual assault; group norms; and the list goes on.

Back to topic, I appreciated how this show represented diversity within the school community. 

Clearly they were trying to keep it pretty and palatable for their teen audience, but sexual orientation, differing lifestyles and a multi-cultural population were handled in a way that, I believe, could go some distance in dispelling negative stereotypes.

Recommendations?

When watching it, I recommend viewing it as a family if your teen wants to watch it at all.

Watch the "13 reasons why: beyond the reasons" together before you watch the series. It came up after I completed the series. It's a good icebreaker with few spoilers and helps set the tone.

Language is horrid on this show. Language is horrid in high school. Talk about it.

Stop and discuss when any viewer has discomfort and when there are times you want to check in: do you see this at your school? Has this ever happened to anyone you know? (you may hear spontaneous comments like-- oh that kid is just like ____)

Strive to be the sanctuary for your kids. Strive to have the door open just wide enough that even your surly teen knows that if the worst was happening: you have their back.

Sit at your kid's bedside and ask them to promise that they would never, ever, ever take their own life and to come to you if they ever feel that horrible.

And understand in your own heart and mind that there are no absolute guarantees in this life. I've seen the most amazing parents have to walk this horrid walk. We just have to do what we can and then try to let go of the fear.

Have conversations. 

Listen.

"It has to get better, the way we treat each other and look out for each other. It has to get better somehow." 
                                                                                          –– Clay, 13 Reasons Why

** I'd say PG-13 with a huge emphasis on the PG. My 13 year old has no interest in watching it but we talked about it and he was in the room at times when I watched it. Per usual I would not be comfortable with more sexual scenes and language but we talk about these things ahead of time.  Optimal viewers (besides adults)? Teens in high school. There is nothing in the movie they are not exposed to in one way or another. The important thing in my opinion is the conversation opportunities this breaks open for you. They've probably already watched it if they have the means. Your turn. And discuss. 

13 Reasons Why joins Dear Evan Hansen in responsible productions that I'm thrilled exist to get teens and parents talking, but that's another conversation. 




Monday, 24 April 2017

Radical Self-Care when the Sh*t Hits the Fan

Last year was a bitch for many of us.

I’ll spare re-writing the global list, but add to mine the year-long struggle my brother had with brain cancer and, yes: It more than sucked.
As a self-proclaimed self-care warrior, I knew early in 2016 that if I did not concentrate all of my efforts on maintaining my wellness, I could very easily go down with the stress-ship.
(This piece is published on elephant journal and you can read more HERE

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

words on grief





in the middle of the night


after your first great loss

you walk through the world differently 

innocence fleeting is now obscured 

laugh lines remain 

reminding you of what life

was like before you realised that

everything you've ever loved 

could be gone in one split second

stars now speak to you

dreams hold visits held in layers

some revealed

some held tight

mystery holds your hand

random answers revealed

to unasked questions

and in all the torturous pain

there is one constant 

the only comfort to tuck you in at night

great loss could not knock on our door

had there not been fathomless connection

stories that volumes could never hold

and the deepest of love

great loss gives but one gift:

great love remains

Saturday, 18 February 2017

what's in a name . . .

We talked about our names . . .

Mine is Becky Lynn.  

Not Rebecca.  

Becky.

His is Thomas Max.

Always and only Max.

He called me Rebecca.

I called him Maxwell.

I told him how I would have loved to have been Rebecca, but really I'd have loved to be called Becca.

The next email he sent me?

I was Becca.

That's the kind of guy he was. 

Trying to make people's dreams come true. 

Big big love to you today . . .




2015: New Zealand



Friday, 17 February 2017

I Lost my Words

 2015 New Zealand visit. 

No one prepares us for the immense intensity of bringing new life into the world or attending the transition of a loved one from their life.

As if sharing the truth of all possibilities is sacrosanct, yet secret, knowledge one has to personally experience to learn.

We smile politely and avert our gaze when the conversations of birth and death dig deep or turn to questioning the truth of the matter. 

We certainly wouldn't want to scare anyone or, by any means, facilitate anyone feeling uncomfortable.

Truth: birth and death both hurt like your heart has been ripped open and stomped on.

Yes, the recovery process for each hold starkly different trajectories, but the "pain" is undeniable.  
The thin veil between life and death are foremost in both instances.

And yet, there is finally the action of the birth of the newborn or re-birth of our loved one: that which some may only call Death.

"Death" is what is currently on my mind.

Or as I choose to call it: moving on.

I've never used the words "moving on" to describe death before, but in this instance it spilled out of my mouth and remains what I know to be true.

No, not because I fear death or do not believe in the reality of it happening, but because I know that our life on earth is but a grain of sand in the macrocosm of who we are as soul and spirit beings.

Having had words my entire life and a good thirty plus years of helping others through their pain and grief and ups and downs, this past year, on this soul-wrenching journey, I lost my words.

My sweet soul-mate brother has recently succumbed to a year of righteously fighting an aggressive brain cancer; heralded by the last totally lucid conversation I would ever have with him during a phone call just after New Year last year– he had called to express concerns about his memory.

He was as close to a saint as anyone walking this earth gets.

Yes, he was human and had his human moments, but this guy, my youngest of three brothers, seven years older than me, was my go-to-guy on all things heart and soul and pain and growth and life. 

Words can't express the depth of our connection and a book couldn't describe our experiences and how his presence in my life made me a better person.

It's the classic case of "only the good die young" because a younger 62 year old you would never see.

Throughout this past year, with his symptoms of disorientation or confusion, I felt I was witnessing him with one foot on the other side. He radiated love and light. He never forgot his loved ones and the connection was one of pure soul to soul.  Yes, there was a transient period where the affected brain area caused some unpleasant symptoms, but thankfully that was relatively short lived. 

What I know for sure is that he is now with me and he is with our family. 

Unequivocally.

I know that.  

And as I write this, the revelation hits me: he was my words-person and very early on taught me to use and respect the power of words. 

He was a rare type of man who shared his heart effortlessly, wrote eloquently, delivered beautiful eulogies and knitted meaningful resolutions, using his words, throughout his career as a highly respected mediator.

I could write and write on this experience. 

Or I could never write again.









Sunday, 13 November 2016

Go to Hell 2016: I rebuke thee

Shit.

It has been a bullshit year to be trying to keep the peace and be all love and light.

My soulmate brother has been on a diabolical health journey since exactly January 1st sending me and my entire family spiralling with broken hearts to hope-full to fear-full to just damned glad to be able to talk to him and laugh with him and love with him like I was able to today. But this guy? This guy is the closest to a saint that could walk the earth:  I rebuke you 2016 for messing with this fantastic man.

Iconic musician's deaths. I will say no more: I rebuke you 2016 for continuing to suck the earth dry of souls that let us dance some of our pain away.

Politics. Elections. Nobody knowing what the hell . . . and now an icon for hate and intolerance elected to the highest office, arguably, in the world. WTF 2016? I rebuke you.

Christian right– who taught me the word rebuke–spreading hate and lies and only happy when looking at their mostly white faces staring back at them in the mirror– unable to even fathom for a moment what the words "Christ-like" might really look like: I rebuke every last living one of you that took the hate-full actions you've taken in 2016. Stop giving Christianity such an ugly face and bad reputation.

KKK and the other overtly racist and bigoted action-takers– shut the fuck up: I rebuke the fact that you could even exist in 2016 and your Hitler-mentality. The thought you were instrumental in electing the US's next president causes the bowels of this earth to roar with distaste.

Refugees being shut out, children bombed, palpable unrest: 2016 I rebuke you along with the diseased fear and hate that perpetuates your wars.

FaceBook– you fail. I divorce you. And I rebuke you in the name of all that could be right in social media if it didn't allow hate-groups to form and shit in people's mouths.

My thought was to disappear entirely from social media and the world wide web entirely, but for right now, that is not the answer. I deserve to feel the feelings and I deserve to have a voice and speak it and I'm all sorry if my naughty words bother you but I have censored myself all of my life.  

I will news-fast to a degree. I cannot keep my head in it like most responsible and activist citizen's will.

What I hope to do is get back to being someone who can see the bigger picture and the Universal significance of it all.

But right now? I'm fucking angry for every minority and disenfranchised person in the U.S. that is getting spit at by these hate-spawns. And we all need to join forces and conjur up as much love-energy as possible to rebuke the hell out of that hate. 

Look out for yourselves peeps.

Be careful out there. 

Don't own their vile words and actions or let them penetrate your loving energy fields.

Feel the feelings.

It's okay. It wouldn't be helpful to paint it with all zen and namastes right now. 

Sending the biggest love out to those that love and are living lives of compassion.

And rebuking the hell out of the hate-mongers.

No, I am not one of you. 

I do not hate you, person full of hate and fear and acting and speaking in such a vile manner.

I just fucking rebuke you.

Be gone.

And 2016 it will be a great to soon see the back of you.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Compassionate lessons from a gorilla

Today, I awaken to more news of the parents being under a police investigation—and it hasn’t been determined yet if criminal charges will be placed. Following that, I read vile criticism continuing to mount toward the parent of the four-year old-boy for allowing this to happen.
As the previously linked writer stated, and I could attest as a professional who has worked with families from all walks of life and has also parented nine children—but for the grace of BeyoncĂ© go you or I.
As parents, we are all vulnerable to actions or oversights that could change our lives in one split second that, in hindsight, might have been avoided. That is the chalice we parents drink from and why so many parents struggle with anxiety—it’s a heavy chalice.
Read the rest HERE at elephant journal.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Parenting Teens: 7 ways to keep the peace.

Parenting is a different experience for each of the adults involved in a family system and exquisitely unique, depending on the child involved.

Every child is different, so hard and fast parenting guidelines do not always apply.
No one lovingly gazes down at their precious newborn baby and murmurs to themselves, “I wonder how many times that perfectly formed, delicate little finger will be flipping me off in the future…” 
Read the rest HERE at elephant journal.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Responding to Terrorism: be the peace

Dawn brought news of another devastating suicide bombing.

Sometimes I wonder how our world can continue at this massive rate of implosion.
I wonder how we can negotiate the ensuing waves of fear, anxiety and hate these attacks herald while continuing to live a mindful and compassionate life.
We are in a time when it is an act of violence to let our children see the graphic destruction shown on the news, precipitating the onslaught of innocent questions asked in the hope that they can be reassured that this, this carnage, can’t possibly happen to them. Ever.
Read the rest HERE

Friday, 1 April 2016

How to Practice the Law of Pure Potentiality when Life's a Big Mess


Does anyone else feel like 2016 is the overly negative, occasionally violent guest that you never really want to invite to your party?

My family has been whopped up side the head by 2016, just about from day one. Add to that scores of our musical heroes leaving the planet and an on onslaught of global terrorism—sometimes it feels like we are all riding one big hot mess disguised as a calendar year.
Read more here:
http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/03/how-to-practice-the-law-of-pure-potentiality-when-lifes-a-big-mess/http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/03/how-to-practice-the-law-of-pure-potentiality-when-lifes-a-big-mess/

Sunday, 27 March 2016

for all the mom-writers out there


I know there are a good many of you who have managed to follow your passion for writing, even with a house full of kids and varying responsibilities. This is not for you.

Hey you. Who, like me, has juggled until your fingers feel like bruised nubs.

You, who wrote as a kid and knew you would always write.

You, who had high school teachers and college professors telling you, "you've got something– you must write."

You, who took the journey of many women before you and, try as you might to sit down and write your biggest project, let everything and everyone come first.

You, honey. This is for you.

I am a writer and I've been a writer all my life. 

Screw the rhetoric that makes me feel "less than" when I read off writers' credentials, the awards, the honours, the degrees and list of literary appointments. 

That will never be me.

Me–obtaining a nursing degree I was not so interested in, but thankfully allowed vast experience in mental health, and enabled me to work and support myself, paying my own way through university.

Me–choosing a career of helping others because I'd always been intrigued by people's complex stories. Yes, maybe I should have put the full-time effort into writing people's complex stories, but instead I made a career of helping people rewrite their stories so that their lives brought less pain to themselves and others. (crucify me)

Me–with my mate at 23, married by 25 and a mother to three by the age of 33, living a complex existence while working my socks off in mental health-- always squeezing writing in when I could-- but unfortunately most of that writing was to finish my BA and MA, each were completed (with honours) while nursing my first baby . . . and my last.

Me–divorced and remarried and now co-parenting a family of nine children as my little straggler boy was born when I was 43. Yes, 43. Throughout all of that I wrote. I wrote poetry sign-posting my journey, I wrote articles, I journaled, I blogged . . .  and then, finally, I started the book.  And finished it.

Let's talk about you, because I know most of you are like me.

Part of you feels guilty or "less than" because you know you are a writer, but you don't feel your portfolio says that you are a writer.

You hesitate to embrace the creative in yourself because everyone and everything else in this world seems to demand to come first.

I feel you honey.  I am you.

I am working hard to take care of myself and part of that is to take care of my writing, which is a marriage of sorts. A commitment.

I'm working at letting go of thinking I'm too old to be putting out queries for my first book– look at how prolifically these other ladies have written, who am I . . .– comparing myself to others' accomplishments that were simply not meant to happen in my lifetime.

After letting my book sit and be just for me, I've decided to uncage it to fly and see if anyone welcomes its wayward self into their window– while trying to ignore the inevitable comparisons to other writers that creep into my consciousness.

My life has taken difficult, varied and innumerable twists and turns; a fact I cannot change.  I bet yours has too.

But we can do this.

We can write. 

We can call ourselves writers.

We can put our words out into the world.

Sister, let go of the "shoulds" and "what ifs" and embrace the "why not," letting that tension go and getting to the work at hand.

Write.

Write for yourself.

Write for others.

And when you are too busy to write in the moment, make note of the brilliant idea that flickers in your mind or comes in a dream and sets you alight. 

And come back to it; she'll be waiting for you. 


Saturday, 26 March 2016

My Reward

Walking out to my little zen writing hut/office this morning, predawn, I was rewarded for the effort. The near full moon was still high in the dark sky. Besides the dogs that had gotten an early release from their kennels, and the bull frogs singing their morning song, it was silent. 

For moms especially, there is a sweetness to the still solitude that sweetly envelopes you on very early mornings– a reward for reluctantly bidding the soft caresses of your bed a fond adieu.  Admittedly, it can be a long reach for me to take the step into that space of self-care rather than rolling over for more sleep. 

I lit candles and incense.  Beckoned some centering energy and began writing. I tweeted a couple photos as the sun was rising over our rolling hills and the mist was hanging on for a tardy farewell. 

But this shot was my reward.  This shot is why returning tomorrow, flinging back the covers and hopping out of bed, will be easier than it was today. This, and the flow writing I was able to do as I work on my new book. 

Yes, I #amwriting.  

#amliving

#amlookingforlight




Friday, 25 March 2016

an unfinished story: after the book is written + before it is published

For over three years I have sat with a "finished" novel.

Meeting new writers in a new land, away from my nest of the woo-woo women writing group I called home, I was struck by how much focus seemed to be on getting published rather than writing a quality book/piece or the simple awe and hallelujah of the experience.

Running into people who had self-published, which involved having to spend thousands of dollars to buy hundreds of their own books, and go pedal them . . . something wasn't sitting quite write, er, right.  Authors sentenced to carrying a huge book crate shaped ball and chain, constantly feeling the pressure to recoup their investment.  Where was the love?

That bucket list book finished, I then went introspective. Who was I doing this for?  Why was I doing it? Fine, I wrote it and rode a big trippy high off the experience. Maybe that's enough. Maybe the true love of the art is about fully embracing that experience. It's ego wanting to put it out in the world, right? And how much feeding of ego do I really want to engage in?

The artistic drive for this project was fed by having spent a lifetime working with people dealing with various degrees of trauma, slaves to an unpredictable mind and having a topic that I couldn't get out of my head and was compelled to write about. I always knew I would. Someday.

But it wasn't pleasant.

Through the magic of using my professional experience and immersing myself in this person's world, riding bareback on their narrative, a horribly unpalatable topic rather magically flowed into a palatable (or bittersweet) understanding of how a very "nice" person could consider committing an unthinkable violent act toward her own child-- with an ending full of exhales and redemption-- involving layers of characters and stories such as those that follow us all through life.

While writing had been my escape and my therapy since childhood, this lengthier project was such a pleasant experience of getting lost in the process, I couldn't get enough of it. I had a vague direction– a question I wanted to answer– but wrote being carried by flow and the development of characters, feeling as if I was channeling the story.  It was a rush; a high. I loved every minute of it.

Then the beta-readers (who stated they loved it), the editing, the re-editing– all not as exciting as the writing but full of honouring the work– and that felt good. I wrote in first person which comes very natural to me, but from a literary context can provide its own challenge: will the reader (read agent or editor) find the writing compelling or unique or descriptive enough, while still being a believable first person narrative.

Enter Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic talk that she recently gave in Auckland. I had read in her book how she believes that there are only so many ideas to go around and if you sit on one too long, don't worry, someone else will snatch it up (as she described had eerily happened to her in the past). And how it is really Mr. Fear that is what stands in the way of moving forward with your creativity.

So the next day, I researched a list of agents. And the next week I started sending queries out. These queries were so much better than the drafts I had put together four years ago because I didn't just ask Mr. Fear to sit in the back seat, I asked him to get out of the car.

Yes, it is no small feat to put yourself out there with a challenging topic.  I've already heard from one great agent, "honestly, I don't want to read about this topic, but I'm sure someone else will."  And yes, thus far one very reputable agent has asked for a full manuscript with requests from two publishing houses as well, which I will hold on until I'm sure no agents will represent me.

For now? I'm chuffed that a reputable agent has asked to read my manuscript. Full stop. I hope to hear from more– or from her again.  But what if I don't?

As Elizabeth Gilbert says, much more eloquently than this: you write.  You write because it is your first love. You write because you are a writer.  You write because it is your art and your creative outlet and it would be cruel to withhold that from yourself.

I write because that is when the answers come.  Answers to "who am I?" "What am I really doing here?" And sometimes more pertinent and timely answers to what is going on in my life.

I write because as a mom to many and wearer of many hats– writing is when I feel most me.

I write because I can't not.

My job now is to further honour the place writing has in my life and make more consistent structured time to do so: foster the flow, gifting writing with more space.  And to let go of self-judgment and allow the process of putting myself out there manifest the outcome that is meant to be.



Friday, 26 February 2016

About being Naked . . .

This piece of mine is published on elephant journal-- 

I May Just Swim Naked--

When do the delicious folds of baby fat become judgment ridden cues for self-deprecation?

My early memories of being told to cover my body are still vivid; the “hide your nakedness” message clearly left a lasting impression on me.
As a small child I vigilantly followed parental instructions.
Cover myself.
Must cover myself.
In the locker room seeing a variety of inhibition and disinhibition I was, foremost, covering myself.
Forever embarrassed to show my naked body. Must cover myself.)
Not looking like the models in the ads. (Must cover myself.)
Fearing being made fun of. (Must cover myself.)