Cleaning Up Loose Ends

Early on in my journey of self discovery, which is one of the main elements of Sunlight (so far), I realized that my husband played a big part in my burn out. He was a good chunk of the reason I was laying on the floor, struggling for each breath and having an emotional meltdown. Only it was suppressed because I didn’t know who I was or what I was supposed to do in this life.

It has been three and a half years and I have just clued into the fact that I need to deal with this part of the “story”, this part of my life, my journey. I don’t know how this will all fit together in Sunlight but I do feel both issues need to be addressed.

How is it that you can know something and not know it? This has happened to me before where it took longer than I am proud to admit for the knowledge of a situation to impact me.

My counselling has begun and I am now going to dive into this issue on why I let my husband hold me back. It isn’t really him. It is me. What do I need to heal or protect or assert to advance, to move forward in my life? My will is trapped in this space. It wants out. I want it out. I just need to find the key. Have I given it to my husband?

Here is an excerpt from Sunlight. It was written in September of 2010. Clearly I have an issue that I ‘realize’ at the end of the chapter but it has taken me more than three years to realize it. This part of my life, my journey, could be what has always been missing from my story. It could be why I have so much trouble trying to edit it or find a flow. We will see in time if I am right.

Sunlight_500x800

Backgrounder: Michelle is my therapist and Melinda is my sister.

Michelle assigned me two books to read. The first book I read is The Joy of Burnout by Dina Glouberman.1 I read it steady for four days. That is all I do. I am feeling so good to be doing something useful. I feel in charge and that I have a purpose – to fix me. I am awake. I am alert. Well as alert as I can be. I can not stay focused on the words in the book for the life of me. I reread paragraphs many times to try to get the message but my attention span is so short I am continually losing focus. I decide to keep reading and if I lose focus I will keep on until I bring myself back to the present. What I get from the book is what I get. I was not going to put any extra effort into it. I couldn’t. I would be here for years trying to read this book if I tried to absorb everything with my non-existent attention span.

The book is draining me of my energy. It is not my intention to be mean. I am weak. The book asks more of me than I can give at this time. It wakes me up. It opens a door a crack for me so I can see some light. It gets me off the floor and onto the couch reading. I absorb new words instead of listening to the broken record in my head. I notice I am breathing more normally, not struggling for each breath.

The book asks questions at the end of each chapter that allow me to reflect on my life, heart and mind. I am journalling regularly. I jot down my answers to the questions asked. But as I reflect and write I am experiencing a real physical pain. It is my left side, lower ribs. It is intense and I often have to put the book down. I only seem to experience it when I am reading and writing answers to the questions at the end of the chapter.

 I am glad to have a purpose each day, a goal. My mind is moving in a different direction and it feels refreshing. I feel a bit like a kid who had never seen colour and I have just walked into a candy store and am overwhelmed with colour. It is good but too much for me to take in all at once. Perhaps I am rushing. Trying to take it all in quickly so I can get better and move on with my life.

By Friday I am worse than I have ever been. I can not move. I am in physical pain. I don’t understand how I can feel worse. Wasn’t any of this helping me? I felt so much better yesterday. This is crazy. I reach out to Melinda. I have no idea what we are talking about but when we hang up I find myself laying on the floor in the sun porch. I do not know how I got here but I physically can’t move. It is not just the mental pain or the pain in my chest, but my whole upper body is stiff and sore. I ache.

It takes me a week of moping, laying on the floor deep in my burn-out again, but I manage to slowly pull myself back up to the point where I can read again. As I read and do the exercises at the end of each chapter I find, through reflection, that my husband is equally at the core of my problems as work was. He may actually be the leading cause. He is part of every answer to every question at the back of the book.

 

Last fall I hired a writing coach to help me finish my book Sunlight, my memoir of how I found myself. It was hard to hear that I needed to have it more focused – re-write the whole thing – there are too many themes. Yet I am not surprised. I knew something was not right.

I have stopped working on Sunlight because of this daunting idea of redoing it all. My dear husband hears me complain that it is not done yet does not see me taking any effort to complete it so he refers me to a book called “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. He has been suggesting this book for about a year now. Usually I sluff off the stuff he tells me to read. Why? Cause it is our relationship. He always tells me what I need and I always feel he has no idea. Well, this time he was right.

I borrowed the book from the library and it is very motivating. Quick short chapters. Pressfield’s language is one that kicks me in the butt – easy and to the point. It also is giving me a new story to tell myself when I don’t want to write and recognize when the “Resistance” is taking control. Strangely perhaps, I now talk to my muse. This is not something Pressfield says to do but it is helping me.

I began setting my alarm for 4 or 5 in the morning so I can get up and write. Now, I have done this before and the result was me turning off the alarm, telling myself I was crazy and going back to sleep. Then I would wake up at a later hour regretting it. Aching all day.

This goes on for months but now after some Pressfield inspiration I hear the alarm and then lay there asking, “Muse? Are you there?” It is a feeling of a presence, of not being alone. I don’t see a face or picture anyone in particular. it is more like a nebulous but I feel her more than see her.

When writers block kicks in I can simply write, “Why are you stuck, Muse?” This helps to keep the pen moving. This is something Pressfield says, he says that we are not to take our writing personally. It comes from a source outside of ourselves. I agree.

One thing I have realized in reading Rudolf Steiner’s work is the importance of feeling something with your entire body. You need to have a physical response to what you learn. So, when I read Pressfield talking about writing in this way my heart started beating faster and my reading sped up. I was excited. My body was physically responding but so was my mind. His words reached me. No writing tip will help you unless you feel it with all of your being.

This is off topic but last night I was helping my oldest with an essay. She is bored to tears with the topic. She has no interest in history because she can not identify with it in any way. Her essay is about “Who Is Lousi Riel?” As I read I shared with her interesting things that I discover. She found it very intriguing that she did an essay not too long ago on J. A. MacDonald and now sees how he is connected to Louis Riel. She smiled and you could see her body bounce a bit due to this realization. She may not remember much about J. A. MacDonald or Louis Riel but she will always  remember they were in the same time period because she had a physical reaction. If you react physically it is an outward expression that something has entered into your body on a more spiritual level.

Now back to the topic at hand, me rewriting Sunlight. To my dismay when I write lately, in the last week, I am only able to write for 20 minutes at a time. When I wrote Sunlight I was writing for 90 minutes. This bums me out a bit because I want to finish this project and rewriting it in its entirety seems daunting. The muse does what she needs to do I guess. Balancing this idea with me working through the emotions and baggage of what a memoir brings this may be all the writing I can do which is better than none at all. Moving forward at a snails pace is better than not moving at all.

Pressfield tells a story in the above mentioned book about living in a house for a year to finish a writing project. He moved away from everyone he knew with the goal of writing, or die trying. Writing was all he did. No TV. No telephone. Just writing. The determination to do this inspires me.

I move forward.

Another week is upon me. What will my writing give me this week?

The Benefits of Life Story Writing

When I view myself as the heroine of my own story, I no longer complain about the conflicts in my life and in myself. I am no longer a victim of circumstances. No longer am I caught within the psychological paradigm of neurosis. Instead, I’m full of anticipation for my journey into the unknown. I am a protagonist in a world of unending dilemmas which contain hidden meaning that it is up to me to discover. I am the artist of my life who takes the raw materials given, no matter how bizarre, painful, or disappointing, and gives them shape and meaning. I am within each scene and each chapter of my life, defining my character through the choices I make. I am on my own side, rooting for myself, aching for myself, celebrating my sensual experiences, marveling in the exquisite subtlety of feelings in my life that novelists have made me aware of in their books. I am as engaged with the ongoing story my life as is a reader who eagerly turns the page.

“Your Life as Story” by Tristine Rainer

Once a month I lead a storytelling group at a nursing home in Saskatoon, my closest city. I bring a topic with me and a prop or two to aid discussion. I find it thoroughly enjoyable listening to my elders tell there stories and see their faces fill with delight that someone is listening.

In February I went with the theme of love. With Valentines Day approaching at the time I thought it would be great for us to talk about marriage and all the good and bad stuff that goes with it.

Only I lost my way. The problem with finding that you lost your intention is that it happens after the fact. I knew I felt disappointment during our time together but I ignored those feelings because I thought I was experiencing the moment where a time did not meet my expectations.

And this is true, I was experiencing that but this time it was a bit more. My expectations failed because I did not honour my intentions. I wanted to talk about the good and the bad yet I began the conversation passing around a picture of my mom and dad slicing their wedding cake. If you have read any of my other blog posts you will know that their marriage did not end well. It wasn’t horrible but it did end.

I began the topic talking about how charmed their life was at the beginning and left it that way. There was a voice in my head saying to tell the group that they divorced but I didn’t want to be taboo. I said nothing.

As the conversation and time went on I realized it was a struggle to keep everyone on the subject of marriage. People wanted to talk about anything but. I let this go cause perhaps they had other things on their mind they needed to share. After it was over the nursing home coordinator told me that they all have either lost their husbands already, divorced or had bad marriages. Only two at the table were still married. For one of them it was her second husband.

Well, I could have handled that. I have had my experiences of bad marriage – one my own and others I have watched. Even my current marriage is not bliss. So why do I not talk about the bad stuff? Why did I not listen to that tiny voice in me that said “Tell them they divorced and that it broke your heart driving away from your dad as a child” as I passed the picture of them around?

Well, I didn’t want to upset the apple cart which isn’t really like me. I don’t mind upsetting the apple cart if it is to advocate for someone else but I guess I won’t do it where I am involved.  Hmmm… this isn’t a self-help blog.  Well indirectly it is I guess.

What I want to say is that we need honesty. We need to tell the truth and not be shy about being judged. We need to make ourselves vulnerable in our writing and perhaps eventually learn to be vulnerable outside of our writing/storytelling lives.  Also, listen to those voices! They are so smart. I am not talking about ego who will criticize and praise you. I am talking about the other voice, the one that suggests things to you. The one that feels like it is floating and not a weight on your chest. Listen. Be brave.

Do You Believe In Signs?

Prairie Sky

Do you believe in signs? I do. Little ‘reminders’ have been dropping into my life like little packages of food dropped into war-torn countries. Perhaps I am in need of signs as much as those people are in need of food.

Some of my signs include having people randomly like some of my blog posts, start following my blog, “like” my Facebook page, respond to my ad for a memoir writing group, and finally I’ve been asked to write someone’s memoir.

All of these events which seems so small keep popping up in my mailbox like little reminders that say “Memoir writing… Memoir writing… Memoir writing. ” over and over again. Little nudges for me to get back to writing and exploring; thinking and evaluating.

So I’ve asked myself what am I supposed to do? It seems as though the universe is asking me to start writing again but yet I do not have the desire to do so. I buy a book to help motivate me (The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts by Martha Alderson). I set my alarm to see if I can trick myself into writing by being to tired to know what I am doing. It doesn’t work. My writing-self has not outsmarted my logical-self.

Then I started thinking that maybe I’m not necessarily suppose to write. Maybe I’m supposed to help someone. Maybe I just need to get back into some life-story-rhythm and see what happens.

No, that is not entirely true. Writing is my voice. It is how I make sense of my thoughts. I can feel the writing version of me inside me. She is trapped. She is patient though. Quietly waiting. Sitting in her cage observing me. She watches but I know she is paying keen attention. She is smarter than me.