Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What’s Your Story?

What's Your Story?

This is a question that Patti Digh asked us during a recent day long writing workshop. What is your story? How do you become aware of your story, and then how do you change it if you need to or want to?

We all tell ourselves stories. Everyone does. All the time. We don't think of them as stories; we think of them as the truth, the way things are. We assume that everyone would say the same thing about the facts, the circumstances, the life. Yet we all choose what to say, how to say it, what voice to say it in, what to include and what to omit. Because we believe it, we tell it. And sometimes, because we tell it, we believe it. It works both ways.

To illustrate what beliefs might be driving us, Patti had us tell the story of our writing life in different voices. Pairing with a partner, one person was the speaker and one was the listener. We told our writing story as ourselves, as a five-year old, as a CEO, and as a successful, New York Times Bestseller author.

I heard how the story changed according to the speaker. I heard my five-year old talk about slights that I thought were laid aside years ago and how she doesn't like to be made fun of. My CEO surprised me the most—she delegates her writing life and lets other people write the blogs—she reads them and says, "That says it exactly!" My bestselling author talked more about hanging out with other authors than she did about writing.

Well, well, well. That is interesting!

Try the exercise. You may be surprised at what you discover. For myself, I'm going to stop delegating my writing so much, and sit down and give voice, my own voice, to what I want to say. I'm going to keep asking myself what story I'm telling in other areas of my life—not just the writing stories, but the weight stories, the housekeeping stories, the love stories, the relationship stories, etc.

How about you? What's your story?

Friday, March 18, 2011

What I Am Reading

This post is actually pretty much a comment that I left on Gigi Thibodeau's new writing blog, The Magpie's Pen. After I commented, I decided it was long enough to be a blog post on it's own, with a few more details added! Be sure to check out both of Gigi's blogs, The Magpie's Fancy and The Magpie's Pen—they are both beautiful, well written, interesting blogs.

Right now I'm reading The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. It's a British novel, reminiscent of the Gothic novels I read as a younger person, and the heroines are also writers—I'm enjoying it. I should finish it tonight—the scariest part is coming up, I think!

I'm also reading a book called The Art of Attention by Donald Revell. This one is deep—I read a bit and then have to ponder. I love the book—it's about paying attention to the world as a way of finding poetry and the Divine. Excellent book.

I also have more in the series about writing called The Art of…; I think I have The Art of Syntax, by Ellen Bryant Voigt and The Art of Description, by Mark Doty, in my stack, thanks to Interlibrary Loan. I love Interlibrary Loan—it allows me to read almost any book that my heart desires, if I am willing to wait a bit. And since there are many more books in The Art of series, I have a lot to look forward to.

I 'm also reading One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp . Yes, I read multiple books at a time—something for every mood! Voskamp writes about being thankful for everything as a way of finding and loving God. The book is prose, but she is definitely a poet. Her writing is breathtaking—as a matter of fact, thinking about her way of writing led me to thinking about syntax, and then the book The Art of Syntax came into my attention—synchronicity!

And these aren't including the other books stacked around the house—from the library, from friends, or my own books. Books I've dipped into enough to know I want to finish reading them, yet I haven't started yet.

It was a sobering realization when one day I realized that no matter how much I read I would never be able to read everything in the world—or even everything in my own house—let alone all the new books that are being written every day! Oh, that is so sad to think! Still, I am going to give it my best shot! I read every spare moment that I get. How about you?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Are you wearing green today? I am. This is the day I claim my Irish ancestry, even though I don't know for sure that I have any. My sister and I decided we had to be Irish though, with a redheaded dad and with our own dark hair and white white skin. We used to joke that we never tanned—we just went outside to take the blue out of our skin!

I love all things Irish and would love to visit there someday. I have a collection of books by Niall Williams and Christine Breen about moving to Ireland. They wrote O Come Ye Back to Ireland, The Luck of the Irish, When Summer's in the Meadow, and The Pipes Are Calling—I think I have them all! All these books chronicle their lives in Ireland. Williams is a writer and Breen paints. They left their jobs and lives in New York City to move to County Clare in western Ireland with the romantic notion that they could pursue their writing and painting full time. Once they arrive, the reality of living in a situation that requires effort and energy just to provide survival sustenance changes their plans somewhat. The books tell their stories of learning how to live and thrive.

If you get a chance, read the books. Or, even better—let's go to Ireland! Until then, here's the top-o-the-morning to ya! Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Shirley!

Today is my cousin Shirley's birthday. I haven't seen her in a long time. We used to play together all the time. We played paper dolls, dolls, house, tag, and hide and seek. When we got a little older, we danced. We would turn the stereo up as loud as it would go; it vibrated the house. We would dance to "South Street" and any and all variations of the Twist. Sometimes the boys from her neighborhood would watch us through the window; we always pretended that we didn't see them. Until we wanted to talk to them, then Shirley would screech, "Go away!" and we would run to the front door. Then the boys came to the door to talk with us. We thought we were so sophisticated!

Sometimes we would play hairdresser. I always wanted to do this, and yet I had absolutely no talent for it. Shirley would do my hair; it looked great. I would do her hair, and it was always a disaster! She finally quit playing this game with me!

March is the month for family birthdays. My sister, my older daughter, my husband, my cousin, my sister-in-law, one of my brothers-in-law—I'm sure there are more if I pull up my memory or my birthday list. It's a good month for a birthday—the beginning of spring, blossoming flowers, the greening grass. So, Happy Birthday, Shirley! May your new year be filled with goodness, fun and someone to share good times!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy Birthday, Judy!

March 8, 2011

Today is my sister Judy's birthday. She would be 69 years old if she were still alive. 69! That seems so hard to believe. She died in 2003, when she was 61. She found it hard to believe that she was over 60. What would she think of 69? What would she think about her little sister already being 62, well on the way to 63 in October?

In my mind, she is still young and beautiful. The big sister that I admired, loved, emulated, annoyed, and followed for my entire life until the day she died. She was always my role model and when I grew up, she was my best friend as well as my "Seester." We used to call each other and say, "I was missing my Sissy, and just had to talk to you!" Now she has been gone for almost 8 years, and I miss my Sissy so much.

She died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm that burst. No warning, other than high blood pressure and feeling dizzy that day. She told Mom that she needed to go home and lie down a bit. That was the last time anyone saw her alive.

It took so long even to figure out how to be in this world without her. She had been my guiding star and my center point for so long. I didn't know how to be me without her.

I have come through the worst part of grief. I have come to accept that she is gone and that my life still goes on. I have days of feeling happy; I have learned that I can live without her. And I still miss her every day of my life. Happy Birthday, Sissy! I'm so glad that you were my Seester!

Friday, January 7, 2011

One Word for 2011

For the last two or three years, instead of making New Year's Resolutions, I have chosen one word to focus on for the year. According to Ali Edwards and Christine Kane, choosing one word lets us focus on that word throughout the year, lets that word guide us when we choose how to spend our time, and lets us aspire to desired results instead of forcing us through grim effort.

2009's word was delight. 2010 was flow. I have been amazed at how keeping that one word in mind affects my life and my choices—in a good way. So I was excited about the word for 2011. What would it be? What do I want to add to my life? I pondered different words; I was gifted with the word "reconnect" through a rock from Patti Digh. Would that be my word?

As I pondered, the word that returned persistently, that tugged at my sleeve as I considered others, that insisted on being my focus for 2011 is the word "shine."

Shine, as in "let your light shine," as in "lit from within," as in "be transparent," as in "be who you are and show that to the world."

Shine as in all the time. Take away the bushel or the cover that you throw over your light when you think it isn't safe to shine. Shine when shining may call attention to you. Shine when shining may be risky.


As someone who has spent life trying to be invisible until she knows it is safe to appear, this word is scary. Yet, I know it is the right word for me.

Patti Digh has written and talked about sharing the light that only you can bring to the world. Just today, Kathryn Antyr, the Collage Diva, wrote a touching message that says we each have a light that is unique to us; we must tend to our light and let it shine—whether it is blazing or dim, we need to tend it and share it with the world.

Since I chose the word Shine, I expected the New Year to start with shining and blazing. Instead, I've felt tired, lethargic, and dim. I've spent time sleeping, pondering, and doing only what is necessary. I've read blogs which have given me more to ponder. And I realize that even in this time of grayness, my inner fire is still burning, still giving off light. The light never goes out. I just need to tend to the fire right now.

Marianne Williamson's book, A Course in Weight Loss, talks about removing the brick wall that hides our real self from the world. Her course instructs you in how to remove those bricks one at a time. I feel that I've kept that brick wall nice and thick through the years. I've allowed my light to shine through windows and at times have opened doors wide to let the light shine. But I've always kept my wall in place.

2011 will be my year to tend to my inner fire and to let it shine—to remove the brick wall so the real me can be seen. To shine through darkness and sun, blazing or dim, to shine and give warmth and comfort to those who may need it—or who just want to enjoy it! My focus is to shine and be seen. I guess my theme song this year will be "This little light of mine; I'm gonna let it shine!"

It's my time to SHINE!