Posted in inspirational, memoir, stream of consciousness writing

Surroundings

 

 

 

On walls

through windows

within the molecules of mental constructs

my vocabulary is

delicious, tormented, peaceful, moody, changing and constant,

dreadful

boring

predictable.

I pack a suitcase and fly to Michigan

to see my oldest living relative on my mother’s side who,

at 97, gives me a gift of conversation;

she

tells me again

how my mother was one of the nicest people she’d ever met.

Then later mentions that she wasn’t such a good cook

and that smoking almost killed her.

I can only feel conflicted

but this time

in my mid-60’s mind, it’s all ok now

really, truly

something is healed.

When I am alone on adventure

the muses never fail to inspire

so when I see

the river rushing, winding,

threatening to overflow…

just like my view of life

motivated by surroundings,

the rapid water is a

savior of sorts,

like a psalm or a poem, words to remember.

 

Journal prompt: write about what motivates you. In your journal, add descriptions of who, how, what, where, when…and why.

 

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.

Childhood:

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.

Jobs-co-workers

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?”

Boundaries!

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 memoir, relationships, weight, writers, Writing for healing

Women, Weight, and Writing, an Interview with Amye Archer

INTERVIEW amy archer

 

Before we get started with the interview with our featured author, I want to take some time to add my condolences and prayers for everyone who is grieving from the recent tragedies in Orlando, Milwaukee, Baton Rouge, and Dallas.

                                              *****************

Almost every woman I know is self-critical about body image. It’s rampant, beginning in childhood or teen years. Happiness is shattered by the realization that all your self-worth is wrapped up into a concept society deems important. You are a clothing size. And if you don’t fit the bill, you are “nothing.” You become someone who is overlooked, ridiculed, and shamed. You have to be someone who is “easy on the eyes.” Being overweight is the new group to hate. It’s a painful membership to a club nobody enjoys.

                                                      *****************

I’ve been reading women’s memoirs on body issues and relationships.  Fat Girl, Skinny really hit home for me because Archer has the uncanny ability to tease the funny bone while talking about sensitive issues. A few emotions are prevalent in writing about life and eating disorders. There is anger, grief, frustration and fear. We eat for comfort. We eat for love but the satisfaction doesn’t last.

The goal is to deal with our thoughts as habits. Then we can cherish and love our physical bodies. And, we don’t do this fight alone.

It’s interesting that Archer talks about overweight women as a “marginalized group.” Writing a memoir about your body is like walking out on a diving board naked. There comes a time when you jump in the water, naysayers be damned.

women's body and flower petals

          “I am down almost thirty pounds now, and for the first time I can remember, I am actually inviting a man to touch my body.” AA

For Archer, joining Weight Watchers offered her the support, the challenge  to get fit, and the joy of belonging. She began to reach her goals.

“I have been humiliated most of my adult life. I have worked so hard at being accepted, so sweet and nice, always over compensating for the lack of aesthetic on the outside.”  AA

Below is my interview with writer, Amye Archer, Fat Girl, Skinny. You can find her here.

 

interview with amye archer

 

SR: What made you want to write a memoir?

 AA: I’m afraid that my writing a memoir was more necessity than choice. I have a difficult time writing from an imaginary perspective. My own voice is my own, and even when I try to write fiction, the character is often exactly me. So, yes, there was a point where I felt that this story needed to be told, but I also never felt there was any other way to tell it than from my own voice.

SR: Do you journal or write your thoughts during the day or did you just sit down and decide to write a book?

 AA: I do not journal, but it’s important to know that my writing is happening in my head at all times. If you knew me in real life, you would know me to be a little clumsy, forever preoccupied, and often forgetful. And that is simple because I am always writing, and that writing takes up a lot of my mental space.

I’m also not a big fan of disciplined writing, or of “forcing it.” I sit and write when the muse is with me.

“I spent years feeling responsible for someone else.” -AA

SR: As a co-dependent in recovery, the above sentence screamed out at me and made me realize how much addiction to approval in any form can be  about relationships and childhood wounds.

 AA: I think it’s important to realize that there is a strong correlation between obesity and codependency. For me, as I grew more and more unhappy with my relationship, I found comfort in food. Sometimes it works in reverse. But there is oftentimes a connection clearly, because when we let ourselves get to morbid obesity-which I was at 275-we are clearly not taking care of ourselves, but are often great at taking care of others.

 It was a hard lesson, the idea that we must care for ourselves above all others. We live in a society to which the concept of self-love and self-care can be demonized, especially when you’re a mother. But it’s important and necessary for survival.

SR: How did your relationship with your sister factor into your writing? IE, family issues about truth and relationships are intense when writing memoir. What would you say to memoir writers who are excavating old wounds?

AA: I don’t advocate writing off family members, but the old adage is true: if they truly love you, they’ll come around.

I’m very fortunate in that I have artists in my immediate family, so the whole “laying it out there for the sake of the art” is an acceptable practice in my family. However, I understand that is not always the case, especially for those writing abuse/survivor memoir.

 My best advice is that you stay true to the message of your story. Never forget that there are people in your exact situation who can be reached through your storytelling. It takes tremendous courage to write a memoir of any kind, but it’s also a great responsibility. Be true, be honest, don’t hide or shrink from the truth and you’ll do fine.

SR: Thank you, Amye! You give everyone who struggles with body image  a feeling of hope. I love that you give us answers.  

“This is my own life taking shape around me.” -Amye Archer

                                                           *******

Right now, I am happy by being down about 12 pounds and am leaving sugar OUT of the house.

As a writer and artist, my goal is to be a healthy role model for my grandchild who has cystic fibrosis. I think about how we didn’t have so much junk food when I was a child.  Food was real food, even though we ate meat, we didn’t have access to so much processed food. For me, trauma and anxiety influenced my lonely food addiction. Now it’s a battle for health. It’s been my lifelong struggle to accept myself for who I am and not what I look like. The challenge of life’s journey for many is around learning to love the self. In turn, we become of service to others. It seems that the key to happiness has to do with how we view ourselves. I feel that gratitude is an essential factor in healing.

Dear readers, I hope you continue journaling, writing, doing art, playing music or whatever form of creative expression inspires you. The door to the path of healing is always open.

                                                       youth-active-jump-happy-40815-medium

 “Hang on. You will become one of us. We will accept you.” -Weight Watchers advisor to Amye Archer.

If you are moved to contribute any comments or questions, please feel free.

Journal prompt: write about weight and body image. Have you ever struggled with over-eating or addiction in any form? Use pictures and collage in your journal.

 

Quotes are from Fat Girl, Skinny. Art is mine.

 

Copyright ©2016 by Susan E. Rowland

Posted in memoir, memories of houses, writers

“I” is for Intense: Four More Book Reviews

Here we go with more book reviews. These are intense reads and not intended for those easily offended by real life.

 

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After Perfect, a Daughter’s Memoir, Christina McDowell, 2015.

Think some people have it all? Well, having it all can change. And you never know what is going on behind closed doors. McDowell is the middle child of three daughters growing up in affluence, enjoying luxurious vacations, flying in Daddy’s private plane and receiving gobs of affection. But family life comes crashing down. Christina’s father, Tom Prousalis is indicted for fraud and sent to prison after a plea deal. The worst part of Christina’s story is the continuing betrayal by her father who uses his own daughter for financial gain and ruins her credit. Christina moves to California and after financial tumbles and problems, goes from Beverly Hills to scrappy neighborhoods and low paying jobs. Even after her father is out of prison, he continues to lie to his daughter. She ends up with a hundred thousand dollar debt added to her résumé.

But! This is a story of triumph. She perseveres and emerges to tell the tale.

Loved McDowell’s story-telling ability and it was a 5 star page-turner for me. I was mad and frustrated by her dad’s shenanigans throughout the story. Another takeaway from After Perfect was how cheap some Hollywood stars can be-I.E they DON’T tip well. If you want to know what is going on in the lives of the rich and famous, work for them!

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Two or Three Things I Know for Sure, Dorothy Allison, 1995.

      “…if we are not beautiful to each other, we cannot know beauty in any form.”- Dorothy Allison.

If you read Bastard Out of South Carolina, you’re familiar with Allison’s impeccable writing. Two or Three Things is a small book, 94 pages of text. It’s tough to read because people just shouldn’t do bad things to children. White, poor, Southern, and country is about as glamorous as a junkyard mutt. Allison writes, “ My uncles went to jail like other boys go to high school.” There is no heartwarming charm in incest and violence, nor is there comfort in the brutal realization that one is gay, lustful, loving and aggressive. Allison realizes she is not like the others and is attracted to women, long before the term “gay” became chic or even easy to say.

I am captivated by Allison’s writing skills. No minced words, nothing overdone, fantastic dialogue and timing-it’s all right there. Yet, she manages to teach and give the reader moments of tenderness. How do children ever get through trauma? Over and over I ask myself the question. Most great writers and artists have struggles.

Reading One or Two Things is helping me with my writing –when instructors tell you to be concise, Allison’s style is a perfect example. Cheers!

 

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 Education of a Felon, Edward Bunker, 2011

Bunker is a testimony to talent born out of delinquency and time spent in prison. This is the searing truism of writing what you know.

His is a life on the streets except for a time when he is housed by an aunt, and later, by the wealthy, frustrated Louise Wallis, wife of mogul producer, Hal Wallis. He wants to do right but lack of a stable family home, or some genetic hot-bloodedness makes him a chronic runaway by age ten. “I was a habitual wanderer by then.” Then he starts getting into trouble.

Bunker’s story is straight up Southern California-Hollywood history, bedecked with palm trees, glamour, fancy cars, wannabes, liquor, drugs, and prostitutes. Bunker is a man’s man. He writes descriptively and with edge-of-your-seat skill. His nuances are incredible.

His early childhood is the pits. He listens to loud fights between his parents and soon they are divorced.  He lives in a run of foster homes and military school where he is rebellious and is beaten up often-a theme that follows Bunker’s life like a shadow. It’s sad. It’s overwhelming. It’s brutal.

The reader finds herself wanting him to succeed, to be loved and cherished. It happens, but not until years in prison line his face and memories of San Quentin fracture part of his spirit.  There is a happy ending. Bunker is released in 1975 and emerges as an iconic writer.  He marries and has a son. Absolutely loved it. What a talent.

Bunker passed away in 2005. His book No Beast So Fierce is based on his life.

                                                      IMG_20160105_100210_002

It Was Me All Along, a memoir, Andie Mitchell, 2015.

I love her from the first page. I feel all her anxieties because I was a nervous child. Any emotional eater will relate to Mitchell’s life story. “Being different,” “struggling to fit in” and other phrases are almost cliché among memoir writers. If food is love then those of us who crave love will never be at peace. Unless we fight for positive change, or die trying, one of life’s greatest pleasures can be a cruel joke.

Creative types, artists, and musicians are often cast from the mold that implies an almost desperate sense of “otherness.” Empaths such as Mitchell feel everything. She writes, “In an ideal world, a child learns eating as an intuitive practice.” Mitchell is a child who cannot stop craving food. Her mother works constantly and Mitchell hates her absences. Her father is a highly creative individual who loses his job and is reduced to screaming fits of anger and depression. Mitchell, like most children, is the absorbent observer of adult behavior. She placates herself by eating food and then has to suffer from rejections. “No fatties.” Life is mean. People are consistently obsessed with image and size.

Mitchell has an uncanny ability to let the reader in on her life and shares how she fought to become a balanced person while working in film production. I don’t want to be a spoiler…it has a happy ending.

I laughed and cried through It Was Me All Along. Great job, Andie!

Those of you who have never had food issues or weight problems, well…to put it politely…. go to hell. Seriously though, I hope you never have to suffer. This book is timely since Oprah Winfrey announced she is doing the Weight Watchers thing. Is it all about the money or are we doomed to forever be spotlighted by our skin, race, gender, and body size?

Journal prompt: Read a memoir. Write a review. Talk about why you chose this particular memoir and how you relate to the writer. If you aren’t interested in memoir or autobiography, write about what interests you.

Posted in journal prompts, memoir, relationships, self improvement, writers, Writing for healing

What I Read in 2015, Four at a Time in Random Order

 

Jimmy Carter

If I want to stay in this blogging game I guess I’d better share what I read in 2015. I find that reading helps me write my manuscript. The way another author writes about an experience stays with me and inspires me to stay with it.

 This is a series of awesome reads I’d love for others to enjoy. I’m not giving it to you all at once-just four at a time. I mostly read non-fiction. Once in a while, I’ll pick up a fiction book that grabs me. Call me too serious, that’s just the way I am.

Also, I don’t rate books with stars on my blog. If I review a book, I liked it!

  • North of Normal, A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family and How I Survived Both, by Cea Sunrise Person, 2014.

The author’s name alone should tell you a little about her parents. An offbeat family living in the California suburbs chucks it all to forage in the Canadian wilderness. Eccentric, opinionated adults bored by modern society haul their child along with their dreams about independence and freedom. Living in tipis, living off the land, and on the lam from the law and social services is just one aspect of her nutty childhood and coming of age experiences. Through sheer determination, Cecelia becomes a fashion model and works her way into adulthood. What some kids have to go through is just plain mind-boggling.

Loved it. I worried about her and cheered for her.

  • A Different Kind of Same, A Memoir, by Kelley Clink, 2015.

Clink is devastated by her brother Matt’s depression and suicide. She is determined to comb through his writings while working through her own issues as a sibling left to grieve. While sifting and sorting through her brother’s belongings, she bravely attempts to find answers about why he suffered so badly. From Michigan to Alabama, and with a look at a life in New Jersey, Clink offers insight into her feelings of loss and betrayal, as well as an honest focus on emotional/mental health, and family ritual in American life.

Raw and honest. I admired her tenacity. Her testimony is so important.

  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, 2009.

You must have heard about him. This is a true account of a boy from Malawi who grows up to become an acclaimed achiever. He creates electrical power for his people by inventing a windmill. He sees a need and discovers a way to find a solution. From a culture of magic and folklore, he advances into a world of science and accomplishment. Poetic, visual, and personal, Kamkwamba with the help of Mealer, brings the reader into a place of hope for improving people’s lives in underdeveloped countries. You can hear him on TedTalks.

Absolutely loved the book. Read all night. Do yourself a favor and learn something. Then, go out and help others.

  • You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know, a True Story of Family Face Blindness, and Forgiveness, Heather Sellers, 2010.

Wow. So you’ve heard that actor Brad Pitt may suffer from prosopagnosia, a little-known neurological disorder. Sufferers are unable to recognize faces. Can you imagine? You have to memorize speech patterns and movements. Every single time you meet up with someone, even those close to you and with whom you work on a daily basis are unfamiliar to you.

Author Heather Sellers is a child with a “crazy” acting mother and a hard-drinking father who are separated in gritty, flamingo-decorated Florida. She is bewildered, different, forever compensating for her own weirdness. She attends at least five schools before third grade. Sellers somehow survives a testy, lonely childhood. YEARS LATER, as a productive, creative and literary adult, she discovers that she is “face blind.” What????

I won’t be a spoiler. You just have to read the book! Don’t blame me if you call in sick for work because you are really reading in bed with a cup of mocha java. 🙂

Journal prompt: what did you read in 2015? What are you reading now? Write a detailed list and try writing some reviews. If you don’t keep a list of what you read, try starting one. Even jotting down the titles is helpful.

Try listing articles you read. Writing about what you read, even just noting your brief impressions helps you as a journal-writer to gather ideas for your own future work.

Posted in memoir, writers, Writing for healing

Hierarchy

In the writer’s group

the women wouldn’t read each other’s book recommendations

and after two of them moved out of state

they never bothered to talk again.

 

Years went by

in established hierarchy.

What was once said in syrupy hours of attention

disappeared into a silent standoff.

 

Another writing coach urges the buddy system

while I keep silent.

Wondering, knowing

we will never pick up the phone.

 

You first.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in journaling, memoir

Writer’s Lament

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The first waking light of dawn

makes my stomach tingle tightly,

as I force my eyes open, glancing at the clock

which has ceased to hold me in custody

like the prisoner of time I used to be.

I try to re-write the sentence in my head– anxious, grasping,

missing again, veering away

from what it was I was trying to say.

 

In the afternoon road- walking,

responsibilities keep me stalking through sentences.

I pace in the back yard, not seeing anything;

Then flop on my back for a stolen moment

the softness of  cushiony earthen mattress on my aching spine,

I’m feeling the phrase emerging from between my ears,

from behind my eyes.

They did the best they could.

 

pebs and petunia

 

Journal prompt: write about writing. If you write memoir, what somatic issues come about during the process? Describe what your body feels like when writing the truth. Do the words just flow out from the page or the keyboard or do you have certain routines that help get the words out?

 

 

Posted in memoir, Writing for healing

April Faces

line drawing 1 for blog

In the waking of consciousness
comes a fervor
of responsibility.

What are we leaving behind
for future generations?

All the talk of elections
while cronies click elbows
with a wink,
and continue to poison the earth mercilessly.

I am aging- my cries
will not be stifled for long.
Determination is in our DNA
as we remember the promises not kept.

Our babies! Our children!

Have I forsaken someone not yet born?

My questions plague me in the early dawn.

Kindreds whisper among each other in circle;

poets, writers, and dancers gather

with the praying spirits.

We will be heard.

old faces copy

Posted in memoir

Easter Musings

The road stretches out into flat desert expanses

where new life bursts in tips of greens, light hues of lime, emerald, and kelly,

tiny worlds of botanic survival

blasted by asphalt in the middle, a strip of man-made dominance

once traveled only by hardened feet, wagons, horses and mules.

 

I can almost hear the whispers and whinnies of history,

padded footsteps of Mohave.

Now

automobiles, trucks, and semis hurl down the road

busting through the mysterious air where whirlwind chaser and solitude reign.

 

We roll forward for hours and hours, almost all day.

People drive in pods, in packs,

a slow one in the left lane,

makes me clench my jaw tighter,

please let me through.

I don’t want to be in a pack when I drive.

 

I glance at each driver  wondering where they are going,

what have they lived? What is their story?

White haired couples with out-of-state plates look like they have been on the road for years,

their children, grandchildren and relatives all moved away,

and they don’t want to sit at home

wondering who the new great grandchild  resembles.

 

I could hardly rouse myself from an early morning dream of people everywhere, people all over the place, walking, sleeping.

Then I  am in an elevator going up towards the sky.

I am looking into

the eyes of the children as we ascend.

The earth is far below us.

 

The city is packed with traffic, a little family is out walking.

Salty truck stops,neighborhoods, ghost towns, sprawling suburbs…so many people.

What are their hopes and dreams?

 

A bride clutches her dress and walks through the hotel lobby,

and  a moment later

we got lost, my man and I

in a heated conversation, only from exhaustion filtering out from our pores.

I just need to see their faces once again and smell the softness of families.

We come down off the mountain

and out of the desert

to civilization.

My God, the traffic!