Posted in forgiveness, friends, memoir, self improvement, stream of consciousness writing, writers, Writing for healing

What People Say: Dealing with Word Wounds and How to Heal


Oh the things people say: “You’re good with the customers but you’re not management material.”

Why do some people react to hurtful comments while others seem to have a thicker skin? The only reason for approaching the topic in writing is that I used to be one of those sensitive types. I learned through needless suffering to deflect the jabs by setting boundaries and kicking out the insult-bearing squatters from my head. Writing a memoir or life story does bring up some of those nasty memories.

The opening scene in the rough draft of my memoir is a one-line zinger that somebody slapped on me at a family function. I got zapped. Verbally tasered. I fired back with what I thought was a classy response. The offender and I never talked about it.

Put-downs, maligning and one-upping happens to everybody. What years of being a parent, grandparent, wife, sister, and friend has taught me is that others have similar experiences. Everyone is sensitive in varying degrees, and that being a “sensitive” is actually a skill. When I earned my degree in psychology and participated in years of workshops, what I learned is that if I don’t get a handle on reacting to people who bully, I risk becoming bitter and resentful.

Writing is a good way to deal with the hurts and move on from the jabs and insults.

While I wrote jokingly in one of my blogs about men being Neanderthals, it is women, it seems, who have a special talent for murderous competition designed to make another woman want to quit. For those of you who have been the recipient of digs and jabs, please take heart and learn to fight back or move on. You’re worth it. I know, because I’ve been there. Sometimes we’re the ones who do the zapping. Everybody I know, male, female, gay, trans…whomever…has stories about the war of words.

Here are a few one-liners I’ve experienced in my life. Some are light-hearted. Some were turning points/wounds that required spiritual counseling and even regular counseling so I could heal. They might not make sense or seem that intense, but as each writer knows, words shape our stories.


What happened to you? Did you get sunburned through a screen?

“There’s a man down in those trees. He’s going to come and get you.”

Don’t worry, they’ll grow.

What are you doing here, jackass?

Why don’t you want to play doctor with me? Don’t be scared.


Who made the coffee this morning? It’s too weak.

Who made these rubber band eggs?

Who scheduled this appointment?

What about your age?

Is this the new help? (that would be me)

 Relationships/Life situations

 You’re really filling up those pants.

You act like you’re single.

You don’t care about me.

You don’t love me.

When did YOU ever grow up?

You have private property hang-ups.

You think you’re so smart. That job just landed in your lap.

You have a repressed mouth.

Why don’t you go back to Europe where you came from?

You don’t understand simple things. You have ownership issues.

Don’t do this because you’re humiliated.

We’re going to teach you a lesson.

Well I hope you learned your lesson.

You’re a two-faced elitist.

You need help.

That’s why Susan is so screwed up.

You can’t even put a lid on a jar right. What’s wrong with you?

 (Thank you Jesus, I never broke anyone’s face. I would come home from working all day and have to make dinner while my kid’s father had been home. Then he would get on my case after I’d make a cup of tea for myself to get through the meal-making).

I’ve had guests come to my house, eat the meals I prepared for them, enjoy the bedroom I fixed up for them only to have someone say, “You make me tired. Can’t you just relax?”


Yes of course there are more one-liners to add to the repertoire. But I’ve done my ceremonies. Writers  & journal keepers can use the words/scenarios to add to novels, memoirs, and interweave them into their characters’ lives. Don’t forget the positives!



Journal prompt: Do you remember things that people have said to you that hurt? Do comments people have made stay with you for life? Write them down. Later go back and write a brief explanations after each comment. This is for you only for right now.

If you decide you want to elaborate, go back and write the emotion or feelings that you experienced after the words were spoken.

Discussion: Experts have found that the act of writing affirmations and positive summaries has a powerful affect on our health. Do the exercise again and use nice things that people have said to you. Notice if there is a difference in the way you feel. Compliment yourself in your journal often.

Also, one way to deal with hurtful words is to take the list and have a releasing ceremony. Put the written words in a fire and burn them. Say “I now release all this hurt forever.” Another way is to make a paper boat and write some of the terms or words that have wounded you and put it in a moving body of water. (please be eco-conscious).

Put your list through a shredder.

You can do a freezing ceremony to get rid of your words-spoken list. Put the list of wounds in a bag and freeze it. Later on when you are ready, in a couple hours, days, months, dump your list in the garbage or compost pile if you have a garden. Another way is to paint on biodegradable materials and bury the issues in the earth. Or make art. Do a collage or sand tray exercise and work with those hurts. But at the end, it’s imperative to be positive. Make up your own ways to put the issues out of your psyche and your world.

Happy writing, everybody. Cheers!

cherub with my name



Posted in earth friendly, forgiveness, inspirational, nature

Butterflies and Kingsnakes


The  yellow mercurial butterflies 

are migrating in autumn regalia

flitting from scrappy creosote bush to lantana,

celibate in this stage,


with purposeful beauty,

actors and actresses


south to Mexican mountains.

Adorn the air with color.


Regarding  from a distance

a queenly kingsnake with her cadmium yellow stripes

competes in the beauty contest for color perfection.


She watches warily with a wink

as she makes her way

a supernatural healer,

enemy of rattlesnake,

defender of earth,

her majesty creeps with looping spine

near the red wall.

second view of the king


She’s  going home

to her den underneath the side porch.

I haven’t seen the little lizard lately,

a cutie

who comes by regularly for blueberry treats.

Maybe Ms Kingsnake has swallowed Lizzy

in preparation for winter hibernation.


For a split second

a haphazard thought comes visiting inside my head,

a map of the absurd

called imagination.

Tis only my homo sapien consciousness.

Keep going, dear one.

When I’m ready

we will visit again.


world collage

Copyright © 2014 by Susan E Rowland


Posted in forgiveness

A Hasty Comment Makes Jerk Chicken Outta Me

woman looking down for self forgiveness

We are at my mother in- law’s 89th birthday party. My nephew is barbecuing on the home-made grill that he put together with his expert welding skills. Wood smoke and the aroma of hot links and chicken fill the air. Children play near the steps  of the weathered building in the  LA neighborhood. Our niece is catering the big meal, scurrying in and out with her grown daughters helping. They set up the large metal trays on frames, with heat candles underneath to keep it all warm. Traditional foods cooked with love- everything from garden grown collard greens, cornbread, beans, mac and cheese, wood-roasted turkey, and later on …peach cobbler, one of Mom’s favorites, is soul food at its finest.

The church parking lot is beginning to fill up with friends and relatives. I feel pretty good right now. I’m so happy to see everyone. My social anxiety is the lowest its been in a long time.  Even with the tough economy, everyone is working or in school. The twenty somethings are really doing well for themselves.  The kids I remember as little, playful and active, are now themselves parents of roly-poly babies. I’m among friends. I meet new ones. I start to relax.

Then it happens. A strange woman walks up near the barbecue pit and starts talking. She keeps explaining and asks if she can have a plate of food. People are looking at her quietly. I don’t recognize her and am critical of the way she’s dressed with her short shorts and wild hair.  The shorts are decorated around the edges with triangle shapes.  She appears desperate. I wonder if she’s drunk. Nobody says anything.

Then I hear myself talking…I explain that this is a private party and suggest she come back later on in the afternoon. My plan is to ask somebody what to do as I  send her on her way-at least it will give me time to figure out what to do before she comes back.

“But this is a house of God” the woman pleads. She looks shaken.

“Somebody said we could come back at 1:00 to get a plate. They told us that this morning.” She looks across the street towards a man who appears to be waiting on the sidelines.

 Immediately, I feel bad. I’m not sure how to handle this. All the food isn’t ready yet. Right away my nephew’s wife comes to our aid and has me go inside to get some plates. Then she has her husband fill up the plates with anything available for her. My mother- in- law, Peaches, is a generous person, always helping the homeless and the hungry. She would have immediately made the woman feel welcome, I’m sure. But she’s not here yet. She would have started  teaching and preaching, while making sure that everyone is cared for. After all, they are new ears for her Bible lessons.

Yet for some reason, on this day, I balk on generosity. Why? Because I assume I know what is going on?  I have forgotten all my blog-babble about Oneness in a hot second.

As I return to the church recreation room, I feel a pang of shame and guilt. Why did I say that to the lady? Who put me in charge? I’m NOT in charge! Why was I so off-putting all of a sudden?

My savior has taken the plates out quickly…  to the rescue and I’m off to find another project to help with, or so it seems. Balloon-blowing works for a while. I’m with a woman who only speaks Spanish and a couple of kids. They know nothing about what happened.

Later on I learn that Saturday is the usual day for feeding a few of the homeless people who show up to the church.

I berate myself and after the party is over we’re back at a cosy Marriott where I huddle with my husband. He reassures  me that nobody knew who the lady was, and that the regular church members were not there to help her anyway. You know how social events are; the mood is still busy as people prepare and talk together. Nobody says anything, and later, or when I pull one of sisters aside they tell me it is no big deal, don’t worry about it. But…she went away crying I said. No, it doesn’t matter-she got some food, they say

But it is a big deal to me and I admit I blew it. It still bothers me.

 People used to say ” ah, you’ve been in the mountains too long.” This time, I’ve had my head in the psychology books for too many years while livin’ in the desert. The heat must have done something to my head!

Journal prompt: Write about times when you wish you’d waited before speaking. Do you think women fuss over things like that more than men?

Sometimes we have to admit we are less than helpful when an angel in disguise comes calling.

Posted in forgiveness, journal prompts, spirituality

Silence and Play: Happy New Year 2014!

                                                      Happy New Year 2014!

                                                     One Earth by Shay copy

                                                          Collage by Shay, age 8

I feel like I’ve been away so long and have missed you all in the blogosphere.! Wishing you all the best with much writing,  art-making, storytelling or whatever it is you do for 2014. If you’re in the cold Northeastern states, wishing you much safety and warmth.

My focus in 2014 is to continue doing what I did last year and that is helping others learn to read, and to gain access to education.

2014 is about completion and follow through on projects. I’m continuing my work as a steward for the earth. Look for upcoming articles.

No regrets!

I don’t do the year in review summaries that are on the news and in most blogs and in every magazine. However, I do feel reviewing is a great journal technique and self-evaluation tool.

Recently when Mandela made his final crossing I decided not to speak for a moment. My aim was to go 48 hours in silence. I didn’t quite make it the full two days. The takeaway from not speaking was a sense of otherworldly peace and a renewal of confidence.  Silence helped to calm my mind and go into a deep state of meditation. I found myself immersed in the concept of forgiveness. I pondered the life of those who have been in, and still are, in captivity. The images of  school shootings and the rage of isolated, mentally ill individuals haunted me. The issue of contempt by an individual for another human being, engulfed me. I wanted to continue on in reverie and go more deeply.

I found that thoughts go full circle.  How we treat ourselves is usually how we treat others. There is always something to learn; we are never finished. How can I do better in my own life?

During my silence I felt the ultimate lesson is that the mind and heart are free. Humans are animals yet we are burdened and blessed with the capacity for intellectual prowess and the ability to control….to an extent. We cannot control raging winds, fires, water and drought.

My concern as an older person is about what we are doing with our world and how we are leaving it for generations to come. Will we be known for making the necessary changes for the Earth?

I write to write and that’s it.

This year maybe more people will decide to use their dollars as votes. Maybe solar power companies will expand. Maybe people will decide that NO GMO is a valid cause.  The health of the planet is directly related to our own lives and health. Lay down the contamination and warmongering and replace it with dialogue, healing, and action.

My point is that no longer are the opinions and approval of others as screamingly important to me. Yes I need feedback, we all do. But,  I have to stand for something, to be a role model for what is good and whole. My quest as an artist –writer is to keep working on what matters to my soul and for my authentic self, and to be of service to others.

2014: The sheer joy of being a witness to innocent creativity is enough to keep me happy. My one resolution is to take time to play!

Enclosed are my granddaughter’s New Years art collage cards. Have a great week!

                                                    play by shay 2014 January copy

                                                              Collage by Shay

Journal prompt: Do you celebrate New Year’s? What about resolutions, the year in review and other traditional activities. Free write about what the New Year means to you. If you have a symbol, a favorite phrase, power animal or goal for the New Year, please feel free to share it here.

Posted in forgiveness, inspirational, journal prompts, poetry


For Mandela

When the whales became stranded in the Everglades

the week of 5 December

my heart shattered

into a fearsome worry of weeping

having felt in a feverish dream a big sadness.

Then came the news

the mighty king, the giant of compassion is at his final sleep.

He who had said the lesson is not so much

in learning to forgive the captors,

but is the conquering of self,

and showing no acrimony when the bloodied spear of oppression

executed by the servants of avidya

pierced his streaming tears dry.

He  changed them with the gaze of kindness.

He, who would not want to be called great or exalted,

lifted up by the arms of the singing ancestors

into the fearless  globe of a transitory pure light path,

is dancing freely.

They called him a fiery troublemaker in his youth

because of his ability to jab

the ineptitude of ignorance.

Journal prompt: Write about your thoughts and feelings about humility. What does it mean to you? Did the life of  former South African president Nelson Mandela affect you? Explain.

Copyright © 2013 by Susan E. Rowland

Posted in forgiveness, friends, inspirational, journal prompts

Gratitude Post 12: Friends

trinkets from friends

I am grateful for friends.

We have lots of acquaintances and co-workers in our lives. We have blood relatives. But who really has a good friend? I have enjoyed the  most awesome friends in my life. There are those special few; she’s  the one you’d  put everything down for in a hot moment and rush to, if she asked. But she’d hate to ask in the first place. Don’t we all need someone we can call without having to be polite or keep score?

The closest buddies don’t constantly  try and one-up.  Some people like competition. We all have it in us, but what could be more wearisome?  In sports, of course, you want competition, have at it.  Let’s go.

 As an artist I don’t care about the impress-me-with-all-your great-accomplishments-and-your tight ass in skinny jeans or bikini (that one’s for you, Joce, I know you have a perfect body in heaven).  I’ll celebrate your success and happiness with my heart if you don’t try to shank my good nature.

                         jocelyn journal

                                  the journal Jocelyn gave me

 My bosom buddies and I have been tight because of, well, pain. We understand each other with a glance. I’m not talking pity party either. The dearest friend acknowledges in just the right way and understands without question when you say “it’s not a good time.” They might want to ask about things but won’t pry and get into your business. They know that you would share if you wanted to. They put up with your inconsistent moods.

 A true friend wouldn’t dream of betraying a confidence. Ever. Or back-stab. Good luck.  I like lots of space and don’t like people getting in my business. Women (and some men) can be so conniving. Oprah did a whole show on why women are so….dangerous to each other.  Chuckles. Generally, men don’t need or want to know all the details of relationships,  how much you make, where your kid went to law school (Harvard, Yale or Princeton)  and who banged who in 1995, or is it who banged whom?

Sometimes men make better friends but not when a woman is already married, of course. I did have a wonderful man friend once, Mark Walker. He was in his late 90’s when we met. He called me his  “fiddler girl.” I have one of his red violins. He couldn’t see, couldn’t hear well, but we had some great talks.

 My dearest friends have crossed over, but we still ‘talk’ in quiet moments and I dream about them. I have to be honest and say that I went into a depression when my friend  Jocelyn died unexpectedly at age 38.

                                jocelyns handwrting

                                 the inscription in the journal Joce gave me

My other dear friend Libby crossed over at the fine  age of 93.  We used to have the best discussions! She was not shy about asking for help. We assisted in moving her four times until she finally settled in Santa Rosa, California. She had lived all over the country and would say, “I can live anywhere, even Texas.” Rather than go into details about family drama stuff she would say, “it’s a mell of a hess.”

Times were not always rosy in my friendships-I may not have been qualified for any friendship awards but for the most part, I felt complete in knowing my girlfriends. No friendship is ever without challenges. It is that particular friend who will be honest with you about little things, and say it sweetly, like your hair color isn’t working or you could use a good makeover…the things that other women might not be willing to say nicely. Most people don’t tell you anything.  Very rarely will you find another person in your career or job field who is honest. Again…too competitive! Looking for acknowledgement from peers feels like begging. My husband says that women’s friendships always sound too involved-with the over-sharing of personal information and I agree. I’m trying, I’m really trying. Why does that lady want all that information anyway? What is she doing to do with it? Sure I love a good gossip session, but only up to a point. Then, I’m done.

 Libby had an uncanny way of telling me stuff that I needed to hear without being too direct. She knew I was paying attention and that I would get it.

The longest Jocelyn and I ever went without speaking to each other was four days. When she smiled, the whole world was happy. I forgive you for leaving, honey. The world could be a cold, harsh place.

Journal prompt: Write about friendship. Are you happy with your friends? Do you need lots of close friends or are you the independent type? What do you feel makes a good friend, especially in the age of social media?

Photo above top: 3 of Hearts nail clippers, gift from Libby.

Copyright © 2013 text & photos by Susan E. Rowland

Posted in forgiveness, interviews, memoir, psychology, writers, Writing for healing

Giving the Inner Child a Voice: An Interview with Sherrey Meyer

                                         sherrey final blog post 2013

Let’s talk about how hard childhood can be and how writers  express the pain. Regardless of religious background, ethnicity, nationality, or socioeconomic status, all writers vent in some form through memoir.  Think of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes or Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  The writing style is a matter of choice.

Today I’m introducing blogger and memoir writer, Sherrey Meyer who is writing about abuse and forgiveness.

SR:   How do you as a writer deal with hurt or trauma?

SM: Susan, this is a good question. I thought when I started writing that the childhood hurts and trauma would not still be fresh enough to be bothersome. Was I ever wrong!

With each word, sentence or paragraph, I felt myself cringing at some of the memories dredged up with my writing. I began slowly because of the recalled pain and soon realized I needed to find a way to cope with these resurgent memories.

One fortunate occurrence for me was the forgiveness I felt for my mother shortly before her death. There were multiple reasons for this forgiveness, none of which were verbal between us.  Yet to share them here would give away an essential part of my memoir.

However, quite often even that forgiveness would not be enough to block the pain and at those times I found several avenues for coping. I would simply stop writing, unless I was at a point where I might lose something I would never reach again.  If that were the case, I would immediately turn to a verse of Scripture that was a favorite and if I may, I’ll share the one I sought most often.  In Jeremiah 29:11, God shares: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This always centered me on the promise that God never intended me to be hurt, that my mother had an inherent problem due to a dysfunctional childhood, and that the hurt actually was not the result of her not loving me.

If all else failed, I turned to music, reading a lighthearted book, or getting outside and stretching my legs.

SR:   Do you think a particular style works for writing about childhood wounds? IE how does a writer effectively deal with trauma without sounding like he or she is reciting a litany of complaints?

SM: Funny you should ask this question. I have recently been struggling with feeling like I have turned into a whining 67-year old daughter. I certainly do not wish to seem to be writing solely about my mother as the “Wicked Witch of the South.”  Mama had her good points too, which my memoir will share.

In recent weeks, I have brainstormed about circumventing this easily adopted pattern of writing about the “bad parent.” On my blog, I have a page devoted to Letters to Mama, where I attempt to give my inner child a voice against Mama’s verbal and emotional onslaughts. As I considered those for inclusion in my memoir, another idea came in a light bulb moment. Incorporating vignettes as I write about those bad times between us would be the way to “show” rather than just “tell” the facts of Mama’s temperamental shortcomings. My nearest and dearest critic, my husband, has agreed this is highly workable and the option of choice.  I’d love for any other memoirists to weigh in on this idea.

SR:  What are a few of your favorite books or writers?

SM: You have opened the gate widely now, Susan. As you may or may not know, I am an avid reader and I review books for several publishing outlets on my book blog, Found Between the Covers.

I’ll try to keep the list short!

Among my favorite authors are Anne Lamott, Natalie Goldberg, Maya Angelou, Jane Austen, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Faulkner and a local Oregon author, Jane Kirkpatrick.  There are many more but I’ll stop here.

Among my favorite books are Emma, Pride and Prejudice, The Anne of Green Gables series (a gift from Dad), The Little House books (you never grow too old for these!), Stephen King’s On Writing, Bird by Bird,  The House Behind the Cedars, A Sweetness to the Soul, The Year of Magical Thinking, The Power of Memoir.

SR: What are you working on now?

SM: Currently, I’m working on the first draft of my memoir. I’ve had my share of false starts meaning I would get started and life would insert itself in a rude fashion. I would be forced to give up my writing for a while, and then start over again.

I have two other projects in mind, both historical fiction. I love to research and these two books will allow me to dig into some interesting history.  The first is the story of orphanages in this country in the early 1900s centering on my father’s admission to an orphanage at age four and the 12 years he spent there before being apprenticed to a small town newspaper.

The other project is a book my recently deceased brother-in-law had hoped to write. His story idea is built around what was once The Poor Farm here in Portland, Oregon. The central characters visit the now restored facility on their honeymoon and become obsessed with the old photographs on the walls. They begin researching and soon find that the records they are uncovering lead to some interesting facts about their individual ancestries.

                             spagnum moss and reeds

Sherrey’s Bio:

A retired legal secretary, Sherrey Meyer grew tired of drafting and revising pleadings and legal documents.  She had always dreamed of writing something else, anything else!  Once she retired she couldn’t stay away from the computer, and so she began to write.  Among her projects is a memoir of her “life with mama,” an intriguing Southern tale of matriarchal power and control displayed in verbal and emotional abuse.  Sherrey is married and lives with husband Bob in Milwaukie, OR.

You can reach Sherrey on her websites:  Healing by Writing  and Found Between the Covers or via email at

Thanks, Sherrey! I’m looking forward to reading your memoir. Here’s a shout out to helping children everywhere. I’m a dedicated advocate for kids and families.

                      chey by horse touching nice

 Journal prompt: Try writing a letter to someone who caused you harm or with whom you have unresolved issues. Let loose, use bad language if necessary and allow yourself to release. Do not send the letter. Wait a few months and go back and read the letter and see how you feel about it.

Suggestion: Try writing from the other person’s point of view and answer your letter. What happens? Is this difficult?

                             side view roadside nice

Readers, if you have a blog or a website and are interested in sharing your journaling, memoir, poetry, or writing about life contact me at:

Coming up: Native American author, musician and visionary, Joy Harjo.

photo credits: Susan Rowland