Wednesday Wisdom: Writerly Catch-Up

OK, I know I don’t divulge too much about my writing project(s). The reason is: The status changes every day, every minute, every time a new idea seems like a good idea. (Seemingly too often, the good ideas aren’t as amazing as I imagined they were at 3:00 a.m.)

The craft of writing is a whorl that can only flow one direction. Fight it, and the resistance takes you down. Go with it, and you will inevitably end up somewhere unexpected but the ride was free. The process hates control freaks. It takes a very open-minded soul to trust their own subconscious mind to create the story.

I’ve been honing the skill of letting go. I’ve let go of how many versions? 47? Hundreds? Who knows? Keeping score is not a good idea. It only serves to stress the emotional freedom that is the sacred space of creativity.

I’ll take a tangent here. Currently, I’m reading a book called ‘A Girl With No Name’. It’s the true story of a five-year old girl kidnapped and dropped off in the jungle of Colombia. For five years, she survived the terror of the jungle by observing, then adapting, into a troop of capuchin monkeys. The monkeys treated her as one of their own. The girl learned to communicate through their categories of screeches, laughter, warnings, and plain old hijynx. When a monkey died, they grieved together. When the girl ate poisonous tamarind, Grandpa monkey shoved her into a pool of filthy water which she forcefully swallowed, then vomited. The old monkey saved her life.

The story chapters are organized through the girl’s discoveries. One example of this was after two or so years in the jungle, she had found a shard of mirror. Her reflection scared her, as she hadn’t known she didn’t resemble the monkeys. With the mirror, her entire sense of identity was shattered. The prior experience had become so absolute in her mind, and her body so adapted to the patterns of the monkeys, that she had no concept, no language, for what she was. And yet, she harnessed the emotional apex that the monkeys had accepted and took care of her anyway.

This story has so much significance. Creatively, emotionally, we can easily be lost in a terrifying world. But when we pause and observe the productivity surrounding us, when we recognize the break-down of skill and experience and care that sustain us, we can arrive at the apex of the human condition to feel heard and be seen. Nature is slow. So, too, must we create.

Wednesday Wisdom: Father’s Day

With Father’s Day upon us, I’m inspired to share a bit of tragedy and a bit of grief. And maybe, a bit of wisdom.

Last night I started reading Small Fry, by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the daughter of infamous Apple guru Steve Jobs. She begins her memoir three months before his death, taking items from her father’s house, slipping small things like toothpaste, nail polish, and pillowcases into her purse.

Then, she explains. Before she had a sense of right and wrong, her father denied her as his daughter. At two years old she took a DNA test, and scoring the highest percentage at the time, 94.4%, he still rebuked the fact that he was her father.

Years later, taking things from his house sated her. At the time of his death, his net worth had been recorded at around 10.2 billion dollars.

I have yet to read beyond the first chapter, but the reader is left eager to learn her story, the untold truth of a girl made to feel insignificant by the man whose role as a father was supposed to empower her.

I’m a Lisa. I know the tragedy of a father who could not be happy with daughters. I heard the insults, diminishing me to the ways that boys were better-equipped for conflict, for ‘getting over’ it, and why couldn’t I be grateful for what I had. But girls are not boys, and as soon as the expectations are made for girls to behave like them, the shame begins.

I know now that the wounded are the ones who wound. The ways my father had been abandoned by his own father were left unhealed, probably unacknowledged, probably diminished. And given to me.

Everyone owns the right to access or deny their pain. It is a choice of self-awareness, of compassion, of curiosity, and ultimately, of expression, to address the wounds that fester beneath the surface. We have two options: to confront them or to pass them on to our children.

As a girl, my father was young, girded with fear and the expectation to remain stoic. This didn’t work. The societal pressure for boys to turn down their emotions has a fallout, but we don’t have to adhere to the norms. We can be brave, stand in solidarity with our truth, and practice self-love. And when we accept our own story based on the principles of love over shame, we empower the vulnerable inner child who lost an identity to fear.

Wednesday Wisdom: Imperfection

My yoga instructor once said, “I used to be perfect, but life wasn’t very fun.”

I love being in my 40’s because it allows me freedom from the pressure of impossible demands. I missed the past two weeks of blog posts, because, well, I’m not perfect!

Earlier this month, I found myself in the middle of a creative swell, and I spent a lot of time diving deep into the creative work of writing my memoir. It was time well spent because now I’ve reached another tier on the writing mountain, gaining the vision to see it from a new vantage.

Letting go of my self-imposed blog schedule gave me the freedom to reach further toward my life goal of finishing a book. Not that I’m close, but I’m closer.

Guilt holds us back. When we let go of perfection, we let go of the guilt that pressures us to meet small demands, making our large aspirations that much more daunting. But when we let the small demands be insignificant, we free ourselves to attend the priorities that give life meaning.

Everything and everybody in life is a ripple on the lake of our being. I know now to prioritize the inner ripples, to keep myself surrounded by the hearts and souls that lift me instead of pouring their burdens on me, the outlets that inspire instead of drain, and to climb the mountains that celebrate instead of coerce.

Wednesday Wisdom: Honor

Nobody has to be important or beautiful to hold significance in the world. We are only as good to others as we are to ourselves. Honor your unique gifts with courage.

A merlin, a rare type of falcon, perched on a tree. (Photo taken by moi )

Here’s an interesting way to honor household objects. The Domestic Apologies

Next week, there will not be a Wednesday Wisdom post. I’ll be in Portland attending AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs), connecting with my tribe.

Love to all of you, Barbie

Wednesday Wisdom: Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the season of giving up or reducing indulgences that hinder our lives of faith. As an adult convert to Catholicism, I have not once successfully committed to the full length of forty days from abstaining from things that make me, Catholically speaking, a worse person.

Typically, I go the wellness route. One year, I committed to drinking plenty of water. Another year, I committed to less yelling. One year, more recent than the others, I committed to the grace of mercy by forgiving those who have wronged me in the past.

The French word for ‘thank you’, merci, is a daily implementation of mercy. Gratitude is a practice of acknowledging the gift of others. The gift of others. The practice of mercy untethered me from a victim mindset to one of growth. Even pain, and in my case, trauma and PTSD, was a gift of others. Suffering is usually not a human condition one enters into by themselves, and only our most-whole selves can begin to understand the gift, the transference, of another’s pain.

For my Self to feel whole, I had to practice mercy on myself. Forgiving my past failures and fears was much harder for me than forgiving others. Learning to treat myself equally, to not be my own victim, was a step that allowed me to face life’s uncertainty with the dignity that I deserved. Mercy doesn’t seek revenge or tolerate injustice. It’s a fortitude that allows the dissolution of control. When we let the nature of things go where they will, when we stop trying to counter the force of the hurricane, we are rewarded with nature’s inclination for balance.

By practicing mercy in the world, the opportunity for gratitude grew stronger which allowed me to feel less concerned about being wronged or shortchanged. Somewhere in my childhood, the notion that everything was supposed to be idyllic and perfect set a high standard, somewhere near the mark of 100%. It took me many years into adulthood to recognize this ideal was unnecessary, and quite frankly, impossible. My happiness is quite full, even at the 75% mark. For that, I am grateful.

For me, Lent is not just a period of deprivation, but a time for reflection. We are all shortchanged in life, but the lack doesn’t correlate with our worth. Digging deep to a place of forgiveness and mercy is an act of integrity and compassion. The world could use more of that.

Faith, love, and hope symbolized on a maritime cross from St. Marie de la Mer, France