Thursday, September 29, 2011

“…I’m going to speak out and be energetic and articulate and have something important to say.  I’m going to pay attention to what’s going on in the world as if the fate of the earth depends on me paying attention.  I’m going to have a point of view and an opinion without waiting for other people to tell me what it is.  I’m going to do the work that I know I need to do, that I must do, that I’ve been waiting my whole life to do, without waiting for an audience.  I’m going to sit up straighter and I’m going to ask make people hear me.  I’m going to ask a lot more questions, and I’m going to pay attention to the answers as if they really matter.  I’m going to really, really listen to people when they tell me their stories.  I’m going to raise my voice when it needs to be raised.  I’m going to lend my voice to people who have none.  I’m going to figure out how to be an effective advocate for others.  I’m not going to care anymore whether people like me when I speak my truth.  I’m never going to ask for permission again.  As [Eve] Ensler said, ‘I am going to hold who I am in the face of anything.’”

Who the hell is Patti Digh?  Seriously, who is the woman (whose last name is pronounced die by the way) who pulled all the jumbled mess of thoughts about writing, about living (which to me are one and the same) out of my head and put them in her book?  

I first learned about Patti ~ I drop her name as though we are long time friends when I’ve never met her ~  through a “New Meet Ups In Your Area” posting quite a while back.  I was looking for a writing group and found a woman who was getting a group together to read Patti’s first book, “Life is a Verb,” and do the writing exercises together.  The book sounded intriguing as the premise was a simple one: if you only had 37 days left to live, how would you live those days?  The meet up sounded intriguing as we would be doing writing exercises based on (I assumed) what we’d do if we only had 37 days left.  I remember thinking how unfortunate it was that the meeting nights didn’t fit my schedule.  I put the whole incident out of my mind.    

However, this started something percolating just under my conscious awareness.  Thirty seven days….thirty seven days left to live….how would I live them?  I found myself pondering this imponderable at the oddest times: one morning this week I ‘came to’ in the shower, my Pears Sensitive Skin soap loosely resting in my hand which was halfway raised to my shoulder.  The water had turned chilly and that’s what roused me from my reverie. Thirty seven days…I think about it in the car during my long commute to work.  I think about it as I’m subjected to listening to the overly loud, overly bleached, overweight security guard at the office telling everybody everything about her personal business in a projecting voice that makes Ethel Merman appear timid.

I had to know more about this whole “Life is a Verb” thing.  I couldn’t quite wrap my psyche around it.  Oh, on an emotional level I sensed a flickering of something I’ve always known but didn’t know I knew.  I’ve always been interested in woo-woo things but this was more like  – like when you sense movement out of the corner of your eye and when you turn to look directly at it, it’s gone.  However, you know it, whatever it it was, had been there, that that it was real and true.

So I checked the book out from the library.  

And read the whole thing through in one sitting.  

And laughed.  And marveled. And thought. 

And woke up. And cried my eyes out.  

And I let my belly muscles relax so I could really breathe.  And I tasted the sweet dusk air wafting through my windows. 

And I accepted that I have too much to say to ever be a shadow me again.  I have more to say than can be contained in a two short paragraph blog so I gave myself permission to write as long as I needed to.   

And I knew that what I have to say is important.  To me.  And that that’s reason enough to say it.     

And I embraced that I write because I have zillions of somethings to say and only I can say them in this particular way, with this nuance, at this time in my life. 

And I will “Be a writer, not just a typer.”

And I mourned friendships broken and opportunities lost and the cold ashes of hurtful love.

And I treasured the beauty of my life as it is now – how it shimmers with soul happiness because of those people who are in it.  

And I’m really looking forward to breaking The Toast Rules (nope,not telling you - you have to read the book to find out what this means).

And I’m refusing my excuses.

And I realized I had finally stripped away the ‘I’m invisible’ cowl I had draped over my soul for the protection of my childhood psyche. 

And, for the first time in my life, I am enamored with the woman I am.

What did Patti go through, I wonder, as she wrote her book?  What were her ups and downs, her discoveries, her joys and sorrows that led her to the conclusion of this wonderful book? 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Wednesday Night Thing

It seems like ages since I've blogged.  Hmmm, I suppose it has been a long time.  May 18th was my last post.

Much has happened in these past months: illness,  surgery, recovery, debt from long hospital stay LOL, debt from paycheck cut while in the hospital for such a long time.  My adult, living-away-from-home daughter finally got the Corgi she has been wanting for the last 15 years and couldn't be happier.  She wants to train him as a therapy dog.  I take great joy in how happy she is in her life.  I dated a guy for a bit but no love match. 

I turned 55 a few days ago.  My daughter, mother and sister called me to wish me a happy birthday and I had a wonderful party with all my gal pals.  I've made some new friends and increased the scope of my professional work to give my job more meaning.

I started going to Journeys - a spiritual community - in late May.  Besides the Sunday Celebration Service, I am attending a series of eight week classes.  We meet on Wednesday nights and discuss ways to deepen our spiritual practice through working with the body, mind, soul and shadow.

This is my new Wednesday night thing.  It is wonderful to go to a place where you and all the other 42 members of your class are in harmony in belief.  The energy flowing in the room is palpable.  I almost feel high when I leave because I'm so spiritually happy.   

It's kind of ironic? coincidental? that one of the precepts discussed this evening was on living as a victim - having bad things happen to you.  The first time I attended services at Journeys, Bill Turner - the minister - gave a talk on being a victim.  I remember one line so clearly because it literally changed my life on the spot.  Bill asked the rhetorical question, "Do you want to stop being a victim?  Change your story." 

Wow - change my story.  First I had to really think about how I told my story: the tale I told people when they wanted to know about me.  For that matter, even when they didn't I usually somehow managed to get my story in.  Holy cow!  I truly embraced the  victim role.  From my childhood traumas to the breakup of my marriages, from the heartbreak of betrayal to the pain of bankruptcy....I cringe when I recall how I kept telling the same story over and over and over of how bad things were for me and how all the sources of love that were supposed to be there for me as a child and wife simply weren't.  And every time I told it, I felt worse and worse and worse.  Yes, I had bad things happen to me through childhood and my teenage years. Yes, I had husbands (that's right, plural) who cheated on me and left the marriage.  Was it my fault that these things happened?  No, of course not.  But what was my fault was lingering in the malaise of victimhood.  Playing 'poor me' was spiritually, emotionally and intellectually easy.  Being a victim felt familiar - all warm and cozy, like pulling the blanket over your head when it's thundering and lightening outside.  Releasing the power that living the role of the victim had over me was freeing.  It was a joyous, liberating experience to say "I  forgive you" and truly mean it about those who had intentionally hurt you.  It robbed them of all the power over my thoughts I had given them.  My soul took flight as I announced "I release you" to those thought patterns that kept me victim.

Suddenly - and it really was suddenly - the old hurtful memories that I used to play over and over in my mind and heart and soul like favorite songs on a jukebox lost their appeal.  I found myself smiling a lot.  I was much more open and receptive to new people and new ideas.  I heard music where there was none, I rejoiced in the beauty of each new day (and still do).  I found that money started showing up just when I needed it. 

So tonight, I am very grateful for my Wednesday night thing.  I'm really looking forward to my daily coursework and will blog from time to time on what we're working on.

With Light and Laughter,

I am

Your Raleigh Writer

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Place to Call Home

I ask the universe to provide me a home of my own.  I've never had that, a home of my own, that is.  Yes, I've shared homes with a husband and children but I've never had a home of my very own - one that I can paint and rearrange and love and nurture and make my own without having to ask permission or get another's approval of my ideas or buy furniture in colors and styles I don't like just so I can compromise.... 
Not an apartment but a proper home.  It’s a small place I want; as long as I'm asking: a place by the sea.  A place by the sea in Scotland.  A place by the sea in Scotland where I can sit at my writing desk and see the sea in all her moods. 
I see a white vinyl clapboard home with a deep three sided wraparound porch.  The porch flooring and the kick plates on the front steps are painted bright purple.  I will paint the ceiling that cool pool blue that makes it feel like it’s only 70 degrees instead of 92 and the ceiling fan, always softly whirring on summer days, is a soft but not quite pure white.  The furniture is overstuffed, comfortable, and dressed in vintage ‘50s pink and green cabbage roses.  There is a giant fern sitting on top of each of the posts at the top of the front stairs.  The kitchen stairs off the back are lined with many different colored pots of herbs.
My front door is painted lavender and the shutters at each window – turned in the opposite direction like old-fashioned church doors, are painted the same shade.  Each shutter has a beautiful scallop shell hand painted on it.  Window boxes hung outside at each opening with flowers and ferns spilling over the edges compliment the lacy curtains I’ve hung.
My home has screen doors on each outside access point.  Screen doors sing their stories with each slap/slam or gentle snick closing.  Screen doors greet you with excitement when they are opened - it's a sound much like a child squealing with joy upon receiving their heart’s desire on Christmas morn.
My modest home has three bedrooms.  Mine faces the sea as does the side window of my kitchen and my living room.  My kitchen has a white Aga, an old one.  The bumps and dings from years of use have lent it a comforting glow, very similar to my old woman’s face now filled with lines and wrinkles.
I have a fireplace in my home.  It’s gas as I have to think of the days when I’m older and can no longer carry in firewood to warm me in the winter. 
I don’t have a lot of ‘stuff’ in my home; I have some well loved and well used pieces in my living room, my bedrooms are almost Spartan in their simplicity but beautiful all the same because of the quilts and accent pieces on the walls.  I don’t have a dining room, just a huge eat in kitchen that is the heart of my home for my family and friends.
And Dear Universe, if this is too much to ask for, a croft would be lovely as well. 
It's a simple place, my home.  It's simple as that's how I want to live this last part of my life: simply and filled with joy for each new day, and appreciation for each thought and action and friend. 
With mindful intent and gratitude, I ask the universe for my home, my safe haven, my sanctuary so that I may end my days writing the stories that have been simmering in my soul for all these long years. 

Friday, April 29, 2011


It’s an insidious black, squirmy, wriggly beast, a grotesquely monstrous thing that stalks at will the halls and walls inside the 72 year old man’s body.  The ravenous spawn attaches its deadly spore wherever it stops, feeds off healthy organs in a frenzied orgy of activity – growing larger, stronger, more powerful with each pulsating movement.  Like the glutton it is, after a gorging, the brute rests for a while before finding a fresh spot upon which to feed and feed and feed again in its determined attempts to suck the life out of my stepfather.

Twenty three years ago, my father died of brain cancer. Twenty one years ago my brother introduced my mother to a wonderful man – they fell in love at first glance. Twenty years ago they married.  They have the most beautifully romantic marriage I’ve ever seen.  

My father was, well, let’s just say even though he was there, he was only a biological father to me.  My stepfather, however, is the true father of my heart.  I admired his strength of character, his faith, and mostly his treatment of and love for my mother, right from the start.

Pa, as I call him, is the guiding force in our family.  He is the one who dispenses sage counsel upon request but doesn’t offer unless asked.  He has a heart as big as Texas and freely gives of his talents and time to whoever is in need at the time, be they friend, family or stranger.  His faith is the quiet, deep kind.  Everyone always remarks how good they feel just being around him; everyone who’s ever met him invariably makes a comment about what a ‘good’ man he is.

I just got a phone call from my mother about two hours ago: Pa has cancer – again.  In fact, this is the fourth time in the last three years this yellow-bellied leech has attacked him.  This time, the fiend has dropped its seed in both lungs.  The blot of ugliness has already feasted on Pa’s colin, bowel and kidney.

However, Pa is a fighter.  He draws his personal courage from his faith.  He’s never uttered a defeatist word in his battle against this bruisingly dreadful ogre...not during the many surgeries, not during the painful recovery periods, not during the chemo treatments, not during his darkest moments has he ever shown any sign of surrender to this epoch adversary. 

My heart is heavy today for what I know Pa will have to once again endure in the next few days and weeks and months. 

At the same time, my heart is joyous in the knowledge that regardless of the arrows it may sling, the rocks it may throw, the blows it continues to deliver - this bastard called cancer will never fell the spirit of the giant I call Pa.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What Happened to Civility?

It’s usually the morning and evening rush hour traffic that reinforces just how rude, as a nation, we’ve become. This morning, it wasn’t the tailgaters and aggressive drivers (this time) that once again drove home that negative impression. It was the man – how can I delicately put this – defecating on the side of the highway.

About a quarter of a mile ahead of me, I noticed a fairly expensive silver car pulled onto the shoulder of the highway. I thought it odd that the driver’s side appeared empty, the front passenger door was open and there were no blinking hazard lights or turn signals. As I got closer, I could see shoes under the passenger door but nothing else. With all the strange stuff going on these days, my first thought was that I hoped I wasn’t looking at the boots of a murdered body behind the door.

I slowed down and glanced in my rearview mirror as I passed the car, ready to stop if someone was sick or injured. There was, indeed, a body attached to the feet I saw from some distance back. This body was facing the car door, crouched down with his pants around his feet, and his bare white derrière was actually, well, physically in the act of exuding its natural waste.

From what I observed, he was definitely not in need of assistance. In fact, he seemed to be accomplishing his task with gusto so I continued on my way.

I couldn’t quite comprehend what I’d just witnessed. The physical act, yes of course. The reasoning behind it? No. It’s a given that we all have to take care of our bodily functions. However, when our bodies are dictating that our functions must be taken care of right this minute, shouldn’t we at least head for the woods (which were about 10 feet away from the car) to do our business in private?

This was just plain, smack-you-in-the-face rude behavior, the equivalent of the slap on the bicep as the clenched fist is sharply jabbed upward. This was flaunting the middle finger at anyone who happened to be passing by at that moment – at society as a whole.

What happened to civility?

In this particular case, was this man raised with such a sense of entitlement that he feels he can do whatever he wants, whenever and where ever he wants?

Does the abominable action of this one man reflect how we, as a nation, have digressed to such a point that our citizens now believe that any behavior/action is acceptable?

If so, what brought us to this point?

Can we blame our nation’s general loss of civility on our politician’s long standing bad behaviors setting a negative example that it’s became just a way of life? Can we blame it on the advent of so-called reality TV that celebrates throwing society’s mores, values and beliefs out the proverbial window? Is it the parent’s fault? To which parental generation would you assign the blame?

“Please” and “Thank You” seem to have gone by the wayside. Terse e-mails have replaced thoughtful letters or Thank You notes. Texting has replaced phone calls. We no longer ask but demand. We only give when someone’s watching. And now, apparently, we can feel free to ‘dump our crap’ where ever we want.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Wolf Within

A short while ago, I made a promise to myself that come hell or high water I would make the time to write every day.

Even when I feel like I have nothing to say.

Like today. 

However, I DID promise myself and a promise made is to be kept.  

Here's where I have to take a deep breath and shake off my fear of exposing my soft, vulnerable underbelly.

After a short but intense period of introspection, I came to realize that I am capable of writing beautiful prose.  I am capable of writing books.   I am a talented writer.   I can use many different 'voices' and breathe life into each character I create. 

But *drum roll for 'moment of truth' confession* I was afraid.  Afraid might be too namby-pamby a word: terrified.  I was terrified to truly let go and write.  I was terrified of my wolf within. 

Yeah - sounds crazy, doesn't it?   Wolf within?  What the hell does that mean?  Athletes talk about their edge being ‘the fire in their belly.’  Well, I have a wolf in my soul; a restless, prowling presence that stalks the corners of my unexpressed thoughts and ideas.  There lives in me a beast that gnaws at my throat until I surrender the blocked words of my heart.  He thrives in the cold, blue light of winter.  He relishes the hunt to ensure his survival but is merciful in his quick, clean kill. When he howls at the moon, his song is hauntingly clear and beautiful. 

I tried to tame him by writing pretty pablum stuff.  I tried to tamp him down by writing mainstream fiction.  I threw him a bone of chick-lit.  He sat on my heart and stared at the wasteland of my offerings.   

His strength and presence overwhelmed me.  I drew back whenever I sensed his presence; I covered the eyes my inspiration.  I dammed the river of creative energy from which he nightly drank.  My mind quivered in fear of my silent predator. 

Then one night, when the tempestuous weather matched the churning of my spirit, I realized he is me.  I am not him yet….He. Is. Me.  He is the part of me that’s free to roam those wide open fields of inspiration – to snuffle out the dark corners of ideas and thoughts and run with them to their natural conclusion.  He doesn’t care for ‘pretty’ or ‘safe.’  He doesn’t allow all the ‘what-ifs’ to get in the way of his sustenance. 

I realized that he is me and promised myself I would honor that part of me by writing daily, without fear, without over-thinking, without allowing the Greek ‘what will they think’ chorus to enter my head. 

My frightfully powerful wolf within trusts his instincts.  I trust me, now, as well.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Let's Keep This Our Little Secret

I'm addicted to The Biggest Loser. 

I have watched it since the very first show.  At first it was just a curiosity but after the first show, I was hooked.  The naked emotions shown by the contestants ripped my heart out week after week.  TBL, for me, was my weekly emotional release.  Then I really started paying attention to each individual's battle.  I learned that weight was not the underlying issue for their unhappiness - it was the hidden reasons for their massive weight gains.  I was not thin at this time but still at a very healthy and attractive weight.  Watching as an outside observer was more an exercise for my mind than anything else.

Then my marriage was suddenly over.  My ex found someone half his (and my) age and that was the end of me.  I was devestated.   While I have always tried to capture my emotions on paper, I'm really lousy at talking to others about them so I kept my hurt inside.  I needed comfort.  I turned to food. 

Me, a formerly confident, vibrant, funny woman turned into one of those people who would sit on the couch and eat potato chips while watching others deal with their disappointments and demons every Tuesday night on TBL.  I would get so mad at myself that I called myself all kinds of names and felt so bad about what I had just done that I'd go into my (formerly junk-stocked) kitchen and find something else to eat. I ended up gaining 40 pounds in a year and have been carrying that extra weight around for the last five years.

Like the contestants on TBL, I had to figure out why I kept myself fat.  It was hard, and I didn't like what I saw once I came to the truth about myself but I've come to accept that I have disappointments and demons inside me just like everyone else.  I don't need or care to share them here but suffice it to say that I've turned my soul inside out and it's much better being me now.

I've joined a gym and even contracted for a personal trainer.  I've learned all kinds of exercise methods but motivation had in the past been a problem for me.  One big thing I learned:  there are no shortcuts, you just have to exercise, and do it regularly.  So I do.  Monday is my trainer workout, Wednesday night is the kickboxing class, Thursday night it's weights and then the elliptical machine in the dark movie room, and Friday is usually a quick, lighter workout.    I do have one exercise secret that I'll share with you.  Tuesday night and the Biggest Loser.  Yep - join me at the gym every Tuesday night from 8:00-10:00 for a two hour workout on the treadmill.  Bring your water bottle!  Seriously, I walk at a fast pace and then run during every commercial break.  I hate running and truly dread when the commercials come on but I push myself through it and two minutes later, huffing and puffing, the show is back on.  Guess I should also remind you to bring your ear buds so you can watch the show for inspiration while you're walking. 

Next Tuesday, if you're at my gym from 8:00-10:00, look for me.  I'll be the one with TBL on the TV; the one with the red face, huffing and puffing but by-God doing it!  I'll look for you as well and if we notice we're watching the same show, let's nod and smile and acknowledge how good we are being to ourselves.  We know we are winning our battle of the bulge.  We know we are building our internal confidence with each step we take.  We know that like the contestants on The Biggest Loser, we will conquer our demons. 

Tuesday and The Biggest Loser is a wonderful motivator for me and and I hope it will be for you, too.  So there you go...I've shared my little secret with you.  Others will come to it when they are ready but I'll look for you next Tuesday!