Guest in Your Heart / Writing

Open NOT Broken

Month: October, 2013

Learning from Lou Reed’s Life

I wasn’t a fan of his music. It’s not that I didn’t like it or him but didn’t know much about either until today when I caught a segment of Fresh Air. Terry Gross was speaking with Lou Reed’s publicist and friend, Bill Bentley.

The full link is here: http://www.npr.org/2013/10/29/241437872/never-back-down-fresh-air-remembers-lou-reed

I appreciated learning more about Reed’s life from someone who obviously loved him. I had no idea how much he suffered in childhood, what a brilliant artist he was, how he refused to limit the length of his songs or about the drummer who was asked to play standing which impacted the style of her percussion.

I didn’t know what a difficult man he was and how his battle with demons was more than one-night fling but a practice he needed to return to.

I had no idea he is said to have been forced to get electroshock therapy for being bisexual because I knew nothing about his sexual identities. I never met him so I wasn’t invested in the failure or success of his relationships but still found myself cheering, that through them, he gained peace and found the happiness and beauty he craved but had been lacking.

Mostly, it is his work as a lyricist I find inspiring. The NPR staff person summarizing highlights from today’s aired interview wrote that Reed’s “No. 1 goal: to change the parameters of what rock lyrics could be. You should be able to write about hard drugs, you should be able to write about gay sex, you should write about anything. And nobody was really doing it then, but he had studied literature at Syracuse University and had met a poet named Delmore Schwartz who had instilled in Lou the ability to tell the truth in his work. And that really guided Lou’s life.”

I applaud and admire his courage taking on any topic. I want to know more about Delmore Schwartz, and to read some of his poems. Here’s a link to one poem I Googled upon if you are also curious.

http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/baudelaire/

I learned from a poet who was a musician’s teacher. Today, a publicist friend was interviewed on radio. This thread of words, the we humans stack and are stacked below and above each other and adhered with words moves me. I got to learn of family members who raised and influenced in ways positive and negative, the teachers and mentors who encouraged or gave corrective experiences, the lovers and spouses and the personal trials causing souls to stretch into new shapes and how those affirming and challenging events fed and fueled art and life choices…

I love being bathing in words by experiences shared through memory, poetry and song.

 

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The Joy of Writing

Writing is a way of being for me as natural as breathing. I’m more comfortable writing than I am speaking. I feel more real, naked and revealed when sharing writing than I do sharing conversation.

Listening to others share their spontaneous words gives me a window into their unconcerned with what the world thinks selves. To take someone in raw and naked, undefended and without army is as intimate as making love.

I know writing isn’t everyone’s native tongue. I’ve loved people who prefer to share the chopping of vegetables, who would rather parallel play in a kayak or hiking the same trail but don’t need to inhabit the interior together.

For me, not writing is like trying to see before I’ve got my glasses on in the morning. I can make out basic colors and shapes but I can’t read, drive or be trusted with tweezers.

Writing helps me know my world and myself. It’s the way I discover what I think and feel and that clarity of feeling makes me the best kind of transparent – vulnerable and without walls.

The truth is, writing allows me space, distance and down-shifting. Sometimes other people overstimulate me or I just can’t manage to focus on eyes, words and the surroundings all at the same time. The blank page is a moment of silence, a reprieve from new stimulus and the way I empty the trash from the in-box of my mind.

It can take me minutes or days to process my own reactions to real-life events and conversations. I absorb too much sometimes. Other times I miss half of what I’ve seen.

Writing is a way of slowing down the world which often seems to move too quickly for me to keep up. Writing allows me to discover what’s under a grumpy mood alone and on the page – as opposed to just raging.

Since I was a girl of 111 getting my first journal, I’ve written to converse with the deepest and most shallow parts of myself. My hope is that by digging deep I can find my highest motivations and react less with knee-jerk emotions or impulses – mine.

I’m not sure how much I would write if I were more outgoing, less sensitive and more at ease with group and people. I’ll never know because my tendency is towards introversion and reflection. Much of the world may be outgoing but it’s not the way I feel the most relaxed in my skin.

I’m reflective and writing lets me get to suck on the same piece of hard candy twice.  The first time it goes in my mouth, it’s fine but fast and gone too soon. Writing lets me tongue linger on the sharp glass textures and how it smoothed into near transparency as the peppermint or butterscotch filled my mouth. Long after the actual candy has dissolved I get another chance to swim in the rich, sweetness of experience. I used to feel I wrote because I missed an experience in real time.

Now I think writers are lucky for being able to zoom in or zoom out on most anything internal or external.We get to marinate in moments and feel each arch, breath and stretch of any pose life puts us in.

Writing can be beautiful art or personal catharsis. It can be a doorway to memory or a window for introspection. Sometimes it is skill and craft. Most often, it’s spiritual exercise that help me work out toxins and grow my awareness muscle.

When I hear people say, “I can’t write,” or “I’m not a writer,” I want to argue and say, “Everyone has a story” and “life is better on writing.”

But I know not everyone shares this passion.

For those who do – we are a tribe. We know writing isn’t but required, urgent and necessary.

Writing can be the cool breeze that neutralizes the heat of intensity boiling in skin. Words can pound paper the way some hit pavement and irritation can fall out like sweat on tar. This is good for everyone, makes me more kind and compassionate and keeps my tongue from becoming a sword cutting into conversation or checking out entirely.

My writing can be the deep crawl towards the finish line after a race I had once thought my body incapable of running. It can be the simple strutting out in hot pink sneakers and a matching t-shirt because that’s the outfit best for chasing the clouds on the beach like a dog fetching a tennis ball.

I don’t need to be an athlete to benefit from exercise,, don’t have to be a yoga teacher to benefit from downward dog. Just because I don’t have a religion doesn’t mean I can’t pray. Sometimes I need to swim into the ink until I can make words or sense.

Writing helps me turn my scared place within into something sacred and that is reason enough for any practice.

Missing the Sign / Speaking for Stupid published in Elephant Journal today!

In my unintended “sign” series here is the next installment.

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/10/missing-the-sign-or-speaking-for-stupid-christine-cissy-white/

 

Memoir Writing: This is Why

I love this piece by Beverly Donofrio about memoir writing in yesterday’s New York Times. She captures why so many of us write memoir. Her crime-fighting abilities may be better than average but she is inspirational.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/21/confessions-of-a-serial-memoirist/?_r=1&

Now I must go order her books.I do have a Kindle Fire but still I favor the actual 3-D book.

 

 

Energy Vampire Piece / Happy October!

I just found out Taste for Life on Facebook is re-running my piece about Energy Vampires.

https://www.facebook.com/tasteforlifemag

It’s exciting to see older words get new life because it is a new season or holiday.

I was a reporter almost thirty year ago and it was long before the world was online. “Byline highs” are what my editor would call it when you would get a feeling of satisfaction seeing your own name in the paper.

Back then, I would read a piece as though I were a teacher, or a friend, my sister or someone I wanted to date. I imagined how the writing would sound to them, and how my ego would inflate if I thought they would think more/better of me.

Now, we are in the land of “likes” and literally see if our writing is shared or commented upon, if the words lead people back to the blog (and there are stats to know just how many). It’s pretty thrilling and odd as hell to be playing number games in the world of words.

I’m glad the Taste for Life Editor (go Lynn!) let me know so I can feel part of the conversation and find out what others relate to, experienced or learned about a topic.

Not only has it been an interactive and satisfying writer day I discovered coconut as seasoning for sole and learned how to make asparagus that my daughter would actually eat.

Another Writer’s Victory

This writer’s writing about her writing journey inspired me so I’m sharing the link.

http://brevity.wordpress.com/

 

What the Flicka

Memoir writing is what I love to read and write. Words have power. I enjoy journalism and social psychology and reading about people but nothing is as interesting to me as first-person accounts. I want to know facts and to learn from studies but I most appreciate a piece of writing which takes me beneath the surface of facts under the skin and inside an experience.

Last month, I was checking out the Forbes top 100 websites for women http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2013/08/20/the-100-best-websites-for-women-2013/ and Time’s  Top 50 websites Time’s http://techland.time.com/2013/05/06/50-best-websites-2013/  learning what new sites might be worth exploring. I saw one on both that I had never heard of called What the Flicka.

It’s a site with funny and light TV mom moments, simple and practical advice as well as good memoir writing. I’m guest blogging there now and one of my pieces is on their home page today. Here’s the link http://whattheflicka.com/cat-puke-crisis-and-honesty/

I picture myself as this middle-aged mom going for my next job interview and being asked about, “What the Flicka” (WTF) on my list of publications during an interview.

Anyhow, if you have a need to write and want some credentials and bylines there are so many fabulous places to pitch your work. While many sites don’t pay with much or any cash, and some only with beauty product samples or bylines, writing to deadline, building your own blog platform and communing with others and expanding your own personal and creative community makes it worthwhile.

The Elephant Journal Version & Note

Sometimes We Need to Get Lost to Be Found. ~ Christine White

I love how the editor at Elephant Journal made the URL to my piece “the joy of being lost” which might have been a possible title. There is joy after being lost that no one could ever convince you of while you are confused. It’s that special way of being in love with the world that comes only after change and because of it – especially the kind of change you thought you didn’t even want or welcome or see any benefit from. 

So today, when I see on the Elephant Journal that hundreds of people have read a piece and a dozen or so have shared the words on their Facebook page I’m humbled. It’s not just the byline high. That’s nice. I’m not going to lie, it’s yummy. But I’ve felt that before with more traditional reporting and it doesn’t compare to how I feel writing the vulnerable stuff which is scary but also gratifying – like getting naked. Intimate. Sacred. Scary. Tender. 

I love writing, need writing and believe in writing. Anyone can write. Everyone can write. Not everyone wants or needs to publish but everyone has a story. Everyone has something to say. The things that are most difficult to say probably need to be said the most. Writing it not difficult for me. It can be time-consuming but I don’t find it hard. Promoting the work and doing anything that feels like selling it is excruciating and awkward and uncomfortable. Like farting. Not tender. Normal. But not delightful. 

However, thanks to the encouragement of loved ones I’m right up on my comfort zone. Stacey, one of the women in my writing group said to try to think of it as making work available for others to find. My friend Heidi showed me around Twitter and how and why it can be fun to use. When the cousin of my cousins promoted his work on Facebook I was thrilled for him and didn’t feel like he was trying to get me to buy from his Avon catalog.

I write, in part, because I’m an introvert and feel most myself on the page. I write to feel more connected to myself and others and in hope that others feel inspired or less alone and want to dive back into the larger world.

I debated changing my blog name and making a writer website that’s more clear but I didn’t. If you are reading my  words you are a guest in my heart. If you are reading my words, for a while, I am a guest in yours. Whether you ask me to leave or I invite you back is another matter. But we share something in the words at least for a moment.

And what more could a writer ask?

Sometimes You Get an Actual Sign

An edited version of this is coming out soon in Elephant Journal this week. Also, you know those people who write short and get to the point in 3 paragraphs or less? I’m not one of them.

Walking a new beach in a super heightened discovery mode (like a dog just let off leash); I came upon a sign, in the form of drift wood with a magic marker message. I took a picture. It says: even if you are lost, you’re here now & that’s good enough.

signI’ve been lost. I’ve been lost not even knowing I was lost. Have you? Has life served you a fresh dish of WTF? Are you still eating the leftovers?  

Being lost is familiar to me. Loving people who are lost has been a favorite hobby. Believing being here now is enough is a radical concept I’m only beginning to embrace.

I had a conversation just last week with my friend Jen about this subject and how, for most of my life, I have been auditioning for the part of human. I have lived with this idea of myself as a decent,whole and accomplished woman. I was her wanna be, her almost but her not quite there yet. In my mind, I was a totally potentiated self entirely “over” my past, with no scars from the ugliness of childhood and absent any untidy emotions spilling out. This imaginary self was what I used  daily, as a hammer, to beat the hell out of my actual struggling and imperfect self.

The former me would have laughed at this driftwood sign, would have stood in the sand and said, “It’s not enough to just be here. You need to make a difference, make a mark – you lazy four-eyed fuck.” This yelling would have been at myself just in case I was in danger of believing the world would offer any pillow and tempt me to put down my guard. I would have thought, “You can’t just take up space on the planet.”

Jen not only understood she could relate and shared how she too had been trying to perfectly execute her roles as mother, daughter, sibling, friend and spouse. She wanted to be “good” above all and to get life “right.” She wanted to exceed the expectations of others. She was proud of what a hard working soul she was, how good she was at helping, giving and exerting A+ effort. We both prided ourselves in anticipating the needs of others and were gifted at judging ourselves for personality defects and character weaknesses.

We didn’t see ourselves as people pleasing, co-dependent or even acknowledge how afraid and exhausted we were. We saw ourselves as activists; sensitives willing to make life easier for others because we were tough and others were in need. Dire need. It was an identity and a lifestyle so deeply ingrained we thought it was who we were and would always be. We didn’t know exactly what we were trying to accomplish or gain. But the desperate and excruciating effort of wanting to be productive and caring had a self-denying relentlessness that became a machine that never stopped to rest. It operated on autopilot without having a destination.

It took root in childhood. The details aren’t necessary except to say, though different, we each experienced and survived two or more of the following: Abuse. Abandonment. Neglect. We didn’t become addicts or criminals. We weren’t materialistic or blatantly narcissistic. Our pain was mostly internalized. We appeared to be kind, responsible, sweet and upstanding. We were the type named to guardians in wills, go-to people who could be counted on for advice, rides or loans. We would never be caught doing anything dishonest or “bad.” If all of those ways of being had given us pleasure and were the deepest expressions of who we were meant to be – so be it. But they weren’t. We were anxiety ridden, trying to justify our existence, to prove we were worthy enough to take up space and air. 

Jen recently found a note she had written to herself that said “I feel guilty for even being here on Earth.” My mantra used to be, “Who cares if you feel bad, who have YOU helped make feel better today. Why don’t you focus on that?” I tried to bully myself into mattering.

We didn’t see being human as a birthright. We didn’t see ourselves as lovable or even likable. We were terrified that who and how we were was deeply flawed, wrong and bad. We were trying to “sell ourselves,” not just to others, but to ourselves. Despite our desire to break family cycles, and how good we seemed to others, we were cruel to ourselves. We abandoned our own desires, abused our bodies and neglected our needs.

The reason I bring Jen into this is that she, like me, didn’t question her way of being in the world until life exploded at midlife. We both thought we had paid our dues in childhood and would be spared future hardship. It wasn’t until “the plan” failed that either of us drastically changed. For both of us, it took major relationship betrayals and shocks to wake us up and force us to re-examine ourselves, lives and assumptions. It took career changes, moves, depression, divorce, post-traumatic stresses and varied heart breaks to teach us we needed to learn how to be there for ourselves. It took seeking, creative discovery, self-exploration and endless lifestyle adjustments to begin making new lives.

We realized being good wouldn’t protect us from life’s hardships and being “bad” didn’t cause bad things to happen. Those were old childlike beliefs that helped us survive childhood. We thought: If we are better, life will be better. If we are good, life won’t be bad. If life is bad, we must not be good enough.  Do better. Be better. Try harder was the antidote as though it had ever worked. It wasn’t true in childhood and it’s not true as an adult. Pain, change and loss are part of life. There’s no outrunning or outwitting those experiences or emotions without shutting out joy, love, creativity and adventure.

Our lives look less white picket fence but we both feel more honest, connected to ourselves and authentic. We are kinder within, more supportive and gentle. We both agree we would rather be disliked for who we are than loved for who we are not. Still, the process of reclaiming the abandoned self can be painful as hell. There are many people who loved us better before, when we met their needs more and our own less. Others feel abandoned or betrayed, that our lives and priorities have changed, that we’ve gone “off” script and we no longer match their image of who we are. Some see us as going from self sacrificing to self absorbed. They aren’t wrong.

They loved the only version of us they knew. It’s harder to embrace a more honest and complicated person who is less predictable and apologetic. than it is to be with someone who tries to anticipate your wants and needs before you even verbalize them. It’s a big adjustment.

I still believe in changing the world and caring about others but it’s not an activism born of self hate. What can I offer the world if I’m not at peace with myself? In the past, I tried to “earn” love and support doing some unspoken exchange, hoping giving myself away to others meant they would give me back to myself. That version of caring used to seem kind to me. Now, it seems manipulative, controlling and a way to avoid the intimacy of being real when adult needs conflict. I don’t want to do that anymore.

The shattering of the life I had was necessary to unearth my deepest self hidden a few decades deep. One part of me feels young and new, like a baby bird, still wet and pushing out of a cracked egg eager to explore. Another part of me feels ancient – filled with trust and gratitude as though my deceased elders are on my shoulder saying, “Don’t spend your entire life too afraid to take risks or make mistakes.”

Maybe what I’m going through is common at midlife or post transition. Maybe it’s a new level of healing as I shake off old survival skills in favor of finding new ways of living. I’m not sure it matters. There’s a cosmic rightness to it all I’ve not felt before which is why the words on the beach written by a stranger meant so much to me. I am grateful for getting a sign, that sign, because, “Even if you’re lost, you’re here now and that’s enough.”

Heart in the Clouds

Can you see it to the left? I literally saw the clouds moving and saw the heart take shape.

heartinclouds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who says there isn’t magic in the world? I saw it with my own eyes.

IMG_20131005_001308

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