Saturday, December 28, 2013

Me, Myself, and I

It's time to practice what I preach.

What is my first memory? I'm not sure, but I think it was when I stepped in dog poop. I must have been around two years old. I was walking in the front yard of my parents' beautiful home in Connecticut. The house was a traditional two-story colonial with a pool in the backyard, and a creek with a man-made pond and island to separate us from the neighbor. Not that we needed separation. Everyone had about two-plus acres of woodlands surrounding their grassy yards.

My parents had chosen to keep the wooded area in our front yard, beyond the grass that surrounded the house. The woods were amazing. We could play there for hours, pretending to be pioneers or rock stars, singers and dancers, astronauts. (We were a three-daughter family, but there was no gender gap when it came to make-believe. We were men and women in our stories, and we loved it.)

The dog poop incident happened long before the make-believe play. I was still attached to my mother, completely dependent, having only recently learned how to walk. (Well, obviously, I guess as I did not seem to have very good aim or awareness of how to avoid the disgusting obstacles in my path.)

So. There we were: I holding my mother's hand as we watched some men cutting down a decrepit tree in the front yard. I saw it after I stepped in it. The mound of dog poop was huge, maybe even the size of a plump watermelon, and it engulfed my blue sneaker. Oh. Wait. My sneaker was tiny. The dog mound was probably the normal size. And that is how I think this may be my earliest memory.

Why do I remember it? Because of my mother's reaction.

"Ew!" she squeaked.

"Ew!" I giggled. (At least, I think I did. It was always funny when my mother said "Ew!" or "Yuck!" We had learned as children to say "P.U." instead of poop or bowel movements or turds. Why? Because my mother had said "Pee-yew!" when changing our stinky diapers.)

She carried me into the house and upstairs to the bathroom with the two sinks. I sat at the edge of one sink as my mother turned on the water, trying to remove some of the squishy, stinky poop from my shoe and sock. All the while she and I echoed each other, chiming "Ew" and "Yuck." And, finally, my mother removed the shoe, the sock (and perhaps more), dropping it all in the washing machine behind her.

Why is this important? It's not, really. Except that it is. I had a cool mother. She was nice, she was funny. She laughed at our mishaps, but took care of us. This is a good memory. It reminds me that I had lots of fun growing up in that house, with that yard. I got bigger and grew older there. I swam in the chorinated pool, hunted bad guys in the woods, sailed across the twelve-foot pond to the faraway island where I found pirates (or became one). I also got a few scars, made a few more messes (okay, a lot more messes), and learned to become terrified of abandonment.

What? Abandonment? Yes, indeed! My mind has wandered to some other stories from that time when I was a toddler, up through nursery school, kindergarten, first grade. But those are stories for another time, another chapter. And this is a part of writing my life.

Sunday, June 30, 2013


Guess what! We all get stuck when writing . . . about anything. Sometimes it gets even worse when we write about ourselves. How do we snap out of it? Write. I know, I know. You don't want to write. I don't want to write.

Simply start: Sit, stand, squat, lie down. Grab a pad of paper and pen or pencil or crayon or--whatever. Use a laptop or a digital device--absolutely anything that will record the letters that turn into words and sentences.
Then write. Write anything. Write about the carpet or the chair or the computer issues. Complain about how you HAVE to write. Laugh at yourself. Get angry. Get frustrated. And write about it.

The key is that writing often puts in "empty spaces." If we exercise, our minds are free to think of the things we really need to think. If we get massages, sometimes we become so relaxed that we think of the stress that is being released, and we cry!

When we write, we think, "I'm stuck." Then we walk away. (Okay, I walk away. Maybe you cry. I know a lot of movie characters type and write; and then toss piles of crumpled papers on the floor.) The point is, we would rather vacuum or eat or sleep.

There are two ways to tackle what we call "writer's block" or "stuck!" The first way is simply to write free thoughts. Don't worry about what you are writing. Just keep writing for 20 minutes (and no fair pausing for a stretch!). The alternative is to write about WHY you don't want to write. That's the tricky one.

If you don't want to write, it may be that you have changed your mind about the direction of your story. If so, revisit your original outline--or consider actually writing an outline. In the "Write Your Life" version, the outline is there. It came in chronological order, delivered for free, your entire life up to this point. So think about it--as you write about it.

Example: I had a fight with my boyfriend today. I know it's my fault, but it was also his fault. Oh. Bummer. I think it's my fault because, um, um, um, I hate to be told what to do. Why do I hate to be told what to do? Well, because he was wrong, and I was right. Thai really IS better than Italian. But why did it hurt so much? Does it matter? What if we went to separate restaurants? What if we had found a compromise? What if we had flipped a coin?

Here's the difficult part of this particular writing experience: The food choice was not that important. You could have worked it out. That means there is something wrong with the relationship, or, perhaps, you are sensitive to "never being heard" or knowing "I'm right!" Think about it. Write about it. Argue with yourself on paper. Then go back to that life chronology that you started? Anything you want to add? Anything that helps you understand yourself and your reactions and behaviors more clearly?

This is not an exercise in learning to blame yourself and despise your behaviors. It is a lesson in understanding your feelings so that you can feel better. Yes, your boyfriend was probably wrong. But you feel terrible. If you understand your role in your original family, your passions in life now, some traumatic experiences that shaped your vision--then you may begin to right your life.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Please note that this is an open blog spot. Feel free to post your writing and comments anonymously--or to share with all. You may also write to me private by e-mailing:

Writing Through Your Pain

Part of writing about your life includes writing about painful experiences. We all experience pain, but sometimes we have a hard time talking about it. Writing can be the perfect way to express yourself. Why? Well, sometimes we cannot bring ourselves to describe our shame or the horrors of a violent event or the cruelty of someone we are supposed to love.
Write it down. In detail. If necessary (especially if you need to keep yourself safe), you may hide or even destroy your writing--after you put all the pain on paper.
It is best to speak to someone else if you can. Try to find a good professional to listen to your painful experiences and guide you to a place where you may be able to let some of the pain go. It can happen simply by expressing it.
When writing on your own, be sure to find a quiet, safe place. Write freely. Do not hold back. Write in details. If you become overwhelmed, seek help. "Check in" with your emotional self. Does writing about your trauma help? Sometimes we can experience a "good cry" (something like a release of pent-up negative emotions). Sometimes, however, we can experience flashbacks.
Be careful. Know of a source to contact. Then take the plunge. Expressing yourself can be a giant step towards healing.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Organizing and Plotting

Once you begin writing about the funny, poignant, sad, happy moments in your life, you will soon tap into which of your own stories mean the most to you. Actually, it is likely that you will start remembering a lot of important parts of your life--and you will want to share them all. There are, after all, joys to be shared, sadnesses to "get off your chest," and memories from which others can benefit. Is this not why we all share our stories and experiences with one another every day of our lives? It's about connection; it's about immortality; it's about sharing important parts of life that should never be forgotten, sidelined, or minimized.
Here comes the hard part: organizing your memories. Start by coding and filing your "index cards" of experiences and memories. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is simply by placing them in chronological order. By doing this, you might categorize your life and your memories by years, decades, development stages, places where you lived during set periods of time.
Why is this important? It is the first step toward finding your central theme. What is the key message you want to deliver in your writing? If you find that many of the memories you have begun writing are focused on your children, your marriage, your experiences in a war, your childhood years with a single parent--well, then you are tapping into a core issue for YOU.
This is a key to unlocking what is most important in your life. It may lead to your understanding what the central question is or was in your life. Were you really a bad child? (Of course not! But you may have felt that way.) How did the war change your views of your own life? Did you make a mistake that cost you one love, but led to your gaining another love?
Or are there other central questions in your life--questions that you have answered or are ready to answer? If so, you are well on your way to writing a fascinating, focused story. It could be completely factual. Or you may choose to change names and use metaphors to avoid hurting others or revealing deep secrets that could harm someone.
Whatever you choose, just keep writing. Organize your memories chronologically. And ask yourself: What is one dramatic or humorous question that you can answer by sharing your story with the world?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Magical Moments

Life is filled with magical moments--giving birth, falling in love, uncontrollable laughter, quiet moments of bliss, louder times filled with joy. If we think of our key magical moments in life, we might conclude that love comes into play in one way or another.
Over the next days, commit to writing your thoughts when you first wake up and then again just before you go to bed. During the days between those waking moments and those times when sleep takes over control of your mind, think about this: have you ever saved a life? Has your life ever been saved by someone else?
Sometimes we are not exactly sure if we have saved a life. We might have stopped our cars just as a tricycle rolls into the street. Or perhaps we have performed CPR or another, more obvious, life-saving act. Have you talked with a depressed friend deep into a night? Is that friend still alive? You may have saved him or her. Have you dialed 911 or rushed to help a stranger who has collapsed on a sidewalk? Think seriously about this. You may not have given yourself credit for even possibly saving someone's life. Do you consider it "life-saving" to have helped someone escape an abusive relationship?
In turn, think of those who may have saved your life--having stopped his or her car as you crossed the street in the glare of a bright morning sun; or someone who held your hand as you climbed up to a mountain ledge.
Life is filled with changes and challenges. We experience joy, and we experience grief. Tapping into the love that propels most of us to answer the call to action when someone's life is at risk--well, that is true love.

As you continue writing the moments and stories of your life, remember these simple rules: 1) jotting down an idea or memory is enough; if you wish to write about entire event, do so in the moment when you feel ready to do so; and 2) keep each event on a separate "index card" of your filing system (whether using actual index cards, digital note files, or tear-out sheets of paper from a little notebook). These "index cards" are the basis of your story and/or stories. You may find yourself attracted to writing about one aspect of your life (a struggle with childhood, times spent with a famous relative, your life's true love, or a single incident that changed your life significantly). These are the beginnings of the stories of your life.
Write your life. Start reading what you have written. If you feel ready, starting categorizing what you have written. Begin sculpting a story if you feel you have a start--or just keep writing for now. Your story or stories will evolve. Be humble, be proud. And in the the process, you will see your life from a new perspective: from outside of yourself. Write your life. Read about your life. Then right your life.

Most of all, enjoy! And always, always look for the love--the love that is at the core of sadness, joy, hope, dreams--all the stuff of your life.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Keep exploring.
If you remember the most joyful moments in your life, most likely you can tap into what brought you joy. Start getting serious about logging your happiest and saddest moments. Fill those memories with details--either real or imagined.
Try adding other poignant memories to your list.
Track these memories by writing them down--one per index card or one entry on your digital device or notebook. Keep them separated for now. You are beginning the log of your life's many journeys. It may become an autobiography; or you may choose one aspect of your life or a time in your life. Any one or all of these subjects will evolve into stories.
Hesitant about writing about yourself? Don't worry! Intrapersonal intelligence (knowledge of one's true self) is on of the greatest gifts you can share with others. If you want to avoid hurting others, you can always change the names and circumstances of your stories and memories. This is about exploring your own life. What causes distress? What brings joy? The more you understand the answers to those two questions, the more you will follow the path toward a content life.
Explore your life. Write down the stories of your life. Right your life.