Your attention, please.

I wasn’t feeling it today. It’s grey out. I don’t do well with grey (except to fend off black and white).

So instead of writing, I committed to catching up on reading and stumbled upon Behind the Scenes by Brandewijn Words.

It wasn’t his generous words that got me (although beyond humbled by and grateful for them), it was his message. I realized it plays into the same theme as the two posts I read immediately before, and the book I’m currently reading, What is in the Way is the Way, and a documentary  I just saw, Leaning into the Wind.

Apparently, there’s something I need to pay attention to.

The theme/s, more or less:

In BW’s words:
“…the way that the world grabs me sometimes. How it twists my perspective and I see it from a different angle… why it’s important to get on the ground, sometimes, and look at something from a completely different point of view.”

Andy Goldsworthy’s words: (Leaning into the Wind)
“There are two different ways of looking at the world. You can walk on the path, or you can walk through the hedge…step aside off the normal way of walking or looking.”

 The Incurable Dreamer’s: 
“Each step I took was with intent and an understanding that pain is what paints the sky with breath-taking beauty and ignites your soul in the grasp of darkness…even when your heart loves so deeply it threatens to destroy you, it is possible to feel blessed.”

Tom Being Tom’s: 
“But if we can learn the lessons of our past and focus our attention in the present…we can build the tomorrow that we want, instead of the one that we fear.”

In short, it’s about perspective, about paying attention to what’s happening in the moment, being curious, leaning into the questions, and most importantly, the emotions behind them, especially the uncomfortable ones

It’s the very thing we stop doing as we get older. We know all too well the spaces that hurt. We’ve experienced the pain of loss, heartbreak, disappointment, rejection, and failure. And we’ve become masters of avoiding them, no matter the cost.

Yes, we survived it, but it changed us. It scared us. Why risk feeling that way again? Running, numbing, suppressing, avoiding: these all seem like the safer bet. So we stop taking risks, “stay on the path”, chalk it up to life is hard and spend our days either stuck in the past or praying that things will get better in the future. Or, we lose ourselves in trying to control and fix everything that’s wrong.

Life, its unfolding, loses its color…and turns to grey.

“Fear needs time to exist. It needs stories of past and future in order to get a foothold in your mind.” – Mary O’Malley 

I see this happening all around me. I see this happening to (or with) me. I’m missing out on so much of the good that still exists, wasting what could be beautiful moments because I’m so focused on fixing the handful of things that are wrong,

But the pain is there to teach us, and the lessons will keep coming back until we learn them, increasing in intensity until running, numbing, and avoiding are no longer options if we’re going to survive.

The fucked up thing is these lessons stem from stories we made up based on beliefs we adopted when were tiny…based on fears we developed when we were tiny.

We run away from them, imagining the pain, shame, or anger will be too much to handle. But by doing so, we give them their power, letting them gain momentum and snowball into something so enormous, when it finally catches up with us, the blow is crushing.

Crushing, but not final.

“If we can learn the lessons of our past and focus our attention in the present…we can build the tomorrow that we want, instead of the one that we fear.” ~ Tom Cummings

The irony is we spend our entire lives trying to find happiness, experience joy and avoid pain. But it’s pain that amplifies our experience of happiness and joy. And neither joy nor happiness needs to be found. We always have access to them. We just get so focused on avoiding pain, we lose sight of them.

So what happens if we stop pushing pain away and invite it to stay instead? What if we just get curious about it, without berating or judging ourselves? Whether it comes from anger, shame, sadness, or fear, we simply ask where it’s coming from and why…and we listen.

What happens is we hear the same story we’ve heard for decades. The one we made up to try to understand the inexplicable when we were tiny, the one we play on repeat, that confirms our deepest fears.

If we’re not vigilant, if we don’t pay attention to our underlying agenda to play it safe and avoid the pain, the cycle continues: we get sucked back into the past, scared the future will hold more of the same…and we lose the moment.

So what if we try something different, change our perspective? Instead of doing whatever we normally do to escape it, we welcome it and give that tiny one the attention and compassion s/he has been screaming for?

I can’t answer that yet. My lesson, the one I thought I’d outrun, it caught me. And yes, the blow was crushing, the pain, excruciating. But there’s no more escaping it, and I’d rather not repeat. So, I’m leaning in. You have my full attention.

I can say this, though: it isn’t screaming anymore. It still demands my attention, to be sure, but it has loosened its grip. It has also made it clear that I’m not in control. I don’t get to decide when or how, and there is no one clear path out of this. I just get to ask questions…and listen.

Oh, and the sun finally did come out, as it always does. But to be honest, the colors were more vivid before. I was just too focused on the grey to see them.

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* Image by Ionus Caras

“When she turned to face it, she transformed it. Her biggest fear became her greatest strength.” ~ b.breazeale

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The Butterfly Effect…or Just Great F*cking Writers

Edward Lorenz and the Discovery of the Butterfly Effect

“It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.”
                                                    — from Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

If you’ve been following ‘the challenge’ initiated last week, you hopefully experienced the magic that happens when people break out of their comfort zones and inspire others to do the same.

If you missed out on some of the action, Tanya, our Incurable Dreamer, summed it up perfectly in “the losing of my poetry virginity

Last week, she [that’s me] wrote a poem [inspired by George Ella Lyon’ original ‘Where I’m From’], and what has transpired since then has been nothing short of extraordinary.

The poem she wrote was inspired by a prompt – Where I’m From.

Her idea was to post it on her blog and challenge someone to write a poem about where they are from, and then hopefully they too would pass it forward. Well, that is what she did, and that is exactly what happened. She challenged Tom who challenged Wulf who challenged Susan who challenged Bojana.

Inspired by Brooke’s words, Brad and  LLY1205 didn’t even wait to be challenged, they both just got right to it and wrote and posted their poems.”

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                                                                                                                          * image from http://thebutterflyeffect.org/

This wasn’t a competition, by any means. But we were all nervous to try something that isn’t exactly our strong suit. Even our celebrated poets expressed some anxiety about presenting their piece. I suppose it’s because we are all following the same model- one that requires us to reveal some of the most intimate parts of our stories- and create something on the heels of the previous person who blew us away…

But no pressure…really.

So, back to the whole butterfly thing. Yes, I will acknowledge that I set this in motion…flapping my wings if you will. But, as Edward Lorenz, creator of the chaos theory postulates: (Cool article discussing the butterfly effect here)

“Subject to the conditions of uniqueness, continuity, and boundedness … a central trajectory, which in a certain sense is free of transient properties, is unstable if it is nonperiodic. A noncentral trajectory … is not uniformly stable if it is nonperiodic, and if it is stable at all, its very stability is one of its transient properties, which tends to die out as time progresses. In view of the impossibility of measuring initial conditions precisely, and thereby distinguishing between a central trajectory and a nearby noncentral trajectory, all nonperiodic trajectories are effectively unstable from the point of view of practical prediction.”

Simply stated, the noncentral trajectory of my challenge was effectively unstable and wouldn’t have unfolded the way it did if you all had let it die out

Okay, enough of that. In short, it was not I who accepted the challenge and wrote something brilliant enough to inspire the next person, who wrote something brilliant enough to inspire the next person…

Maybe I did initiate a breeze. But you all gave it the momentum necessary to make the next person’s words take flight, compelling them to dig deeper and soar to heights that took our writers and readers by storm and left us all spinning. 

So Tanya, thank you for finishing off this whirlwind week of words with such grace, depth and courage. And thanks to the rest of you brave souls who gave us an enchanting glimpse intowhere you are from.

Life-is-poetry-that

See where Mirian, from Out an’ About takes us next…

The Lion’s Lair & A Challenge

Okay, a break from soulmates. I received an unexpected, much-needed gift this week and got to spend a couple of hours with my writing teacher, Miss Lisa Jones.

I discovered Lisa when I was in a coffee shop doing research for my upcoming trip to the Congo. I was thinking I should learn how to write so I could share my experience with friends and family, looked up from my computer and there was her flyer posted on the community board. I was sitting next to her within a couple of weeks.

Four years later, now a self-declared writer, I got to revisit the process of trying to follow her prompts and find the courage to read what I came up with (which is never what I want it to be) out loud to a room full of strangers. It’s terrifying and exhilarating and always sends me soaring way outside my comfort zone.

Poetry. I kinda hate it. I don’t know how to do it, and I always feel like I’m imitating Dr. Suess.

So, of course, our first prompt was a poem. I’ll share it with you and what I came up with (which I think sounds like a darker, more jaded version of Dr. Suess).

Okay, so a challenge: I’m gonna pass this off to one of you, and if you are up for it, I would love to see your version, your story.

When you post, or if you prefer to pass, send to on to someone you think might want to experiment with it.

The first victim, if he so chooses, is Tom being Tom. :o)

My version of Lyon’s original:

Where I’m From: The Lion’s Lair

I am from pigtails, teddy bears, things tied in bows
From cow pastures, barbed wire, dry, dusty roads
From Vodka bottles buried
beneath dirty clothes

I’m from TV dinners, pudding pops, sweetened ice tea
From silence, shame, and muffled screams
From two best friends
only I could see

I am from weeping willows, bare feet, Fourth of July
From Bible study, train tracks, the cicadas’ cry
From climbing trees, scraped up knees
chasing fireflies

I’m from dreaming of anyplace but here
From invented fairytales and judgmental stares
From her inevitable return
from the lion’s lair

I am from faded photographs of faces unknown
From a wild heart with a gypsy’s soul
From an untethered spirit
that can never let go

Where I’m From

~ George Ella Lyon
I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush,
the Dutch elm
whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,
from Imogene and Alafair.
I’m from the know-it-alls
and the pass-it-ons,
from perk up and pipe down.
I’m from He restoreth my soul
with a cottonball lamb
and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments–
snapped before I budded–
leaf-fall from the family tree

 

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The Girl who Bullied me Gave me my Greatest Gift (published in Elephant Journal)

Perspective is generous at its core… always offering us gifts when we’re ready to receive them.

The Girl who Bullied me Gave me my Greatest Gift

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* This is from a writing prompt for a course I’m taking at Elephant Academy (awesome 3-month, online course, definitely check it out).

Redemption

Some closing remarks to balance out my previous post, I tried, but it’s raining …. not funny, per se, but hopefully a more celebratory approach to my favorite season.
The rain didn’t last much longer, as is usually the case here. But it did drag on long enough to make the days that have followed seem even more magical.
Yes, ‘death and loss’ are all around in theory. Trees are losing their leaves, flowers are no longer blooming, and my futile effort to rescue the bees struggling to take flight continues.
But these things still don’t represent Fall to me. Fall, for me, is perfect days when the air is crisp, but the sun still provides enough warmth to keep me craving to be outside. It’s watching the leaves slowly transform into a stunning display of colors, making their previous shades of green seem dull and ordinary. It’s mums and pumpkin spice, warm sweaters and crisp apples, hot soup and fuzzy slippers.
And it’s not summer.
Truly, the only thing I think is tragic about Fall is that it’s departure always comes too soon. I suppose that is what makes it all the more beautiful. I know these things I love are fleeting. I hear the crunch of the leaves that have already made their descent under my feet. I add more and more layers as the sun provides less and less warmth. And although there is an undercurrent of melancholy that threatens to undermine the beauty of the present moment, it’s kept at bay because each day the colors of my favorite tree are more brilliant than the day before.
So is this death, loss? Or is it perhaps redemption?
The season that came before is something I so desperately want to leave behind. No matter how beautiful the summer was, for me it was hell. Each day bled into the next, all the same, all filled with a sense of dread for the next to arrive. Because I knew I would feel as terrible as the day before.
Until that first morning when I walked outside and felt a subtle chill in the air, and with it, a tinge of something that had seemed to evaporate with the heat of summer. Hope. I felt some semblance of Hope. Change was inevitable. And summer was over.
This year, the arrival of Fall was swift. Temperatures dropped and the leaves took their cue, transforming into colors like I’ve never seen. I had no choice but to finally look up, the convergence of seasons revealing the gifts that I simply couldn’t see in the absence of perspective- the warmth of the sun on my skin, the changing colors of the leaves that will soon be gone, the fragrance of summer flowers still lingering as I walk by. Finally, a brief and welcomed reminder that this pain is fleeting and will eventually be replaced with something beautiful… if I choose to see it as such.
Redemption? I can’t say for sure just yet. But I do know this: you will never see colors as brilliant as the first ones you see when you emerge from the dark.
tree.crush

I hate you because I love you (published in Elephant Journal)

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I hate to inundate you with hate here, but I had no idea this was published in Elephant Journal back in August. I hate you because I love you

Promise, no more hating after this!!! (And god, the picture is a bit dramatic… no say in that department!)

11 months, 9 days re-re-visited (published in Elephant Journal)

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Seems shattered hearts are the latest trend. Don’t fall for it…utterly overrated.

Why we shouldn’t stop trying to piece back together a shattered heart

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/09/piecing-back-together-a-shattered-heart/