Wednesday Wisdom

Wednesday Wisdom: Success

When I began writing my memoir, the question most often asked was if it would be published.

In the beginning, I was adamant. Yes! Why else would I write? It was like asking if I intended to eat the plate of food in front of me at the dinner table. I was ravenous for indulgence.

Another year went by. I wrote as consistently as I ate. Writing was part of the day, something to sustain me. It gave me a voice and a safe place to reveal my fears and I grew less afraid of what I might discover about myself. Some days brought feasts of time and some days, a snack, but overall, a reliable practice built trust between my voice and my story. I honored the time I had carved out of the day for myself and my intentions softened. I was no longer anxious about life’s uncertainties or the book’s completion. Writing is like coq-au-vin. It needs time to absorb the flavors.

In the past five years, writing has opened my world. I have shared my story with others, who in turn have shared their own hard stories with me. Vulnerability is less threatening when you trust yourself. With writing, I have grown in authenticity, courage, and compassion, and in return, my tribe has grown enormously on social media and in real life. I am grateful for the tenderness that surpasses familiarity, and witnessing strangers in support of strangers is one of the most amazing aspects I have found through memoir writing.

Today, I was honored to be interviewed by Karletta Marie, in Australia, about the importance of sharing our most vulnerable stories. We spoke for an hour and a half. Our conversation was ignited with passion for the experience of renewal that memoir writing provides. Her mission to interview authors and professional writers about their growth stories is an act of compassion. She has witnessed the fear that holds people back and her work provides inspiration with narratives of courage.

But will my book be published?

Yes, although I don’t know when. At this point, it doesn’t matter. My measure of success is no longer a book deal, a monetary figure, or even a hard copy of my work. My goals to connect with others in honest and gritty exposure of fears and truth without guilt or shame was something I hadn’t considered at the onset of my writing journey. My prerogatives have changed. The book will be done some day, but I am successful today.

Seeley Lake, Montana

Wednesday Wisdom: Independence

Independence Day is tomorrow. As a woman, I’m inspired by the concepts of independence and freedom as personal rights to hold sacred. To break away from the mindsets that diminish and erase our worth requires a metamorphosis from groupthink to individuality, silence to confession, denial to courage.

Freedom is earned when we face our worst selves—our fears, shames, and silences. Hidden stories provide clues to the wounds we carry, scars of a previous life, or perhaps, an ongoing drama that requires our truest and most courageous voice.

As a girl, I used to play ‘Opposites’ with my sisters. The game would last half a day, or maybe ten minutes, depending on the moods and activity in the house. It was a simple game, requiring a shift in response, from ‘Yes’ to ‘No’, or its opposite, ‘No’ to ‘Yes’. The objective was to trick each other in timing, voice intonation, and observation, waiting for the other to be distracted enough to lose their focus before posing a question. Requiring us to answer the opposite, we’d lose if we answered the truth.

It was a manipulative game. Girls grow up, and I know now that living in false pretenses is a script to override with honesty. Independence is a permission we grant ourselves to be our most vulnerable, wounded, and scarred individual, to expose our humanity in a sacred offering of flaws and mental and emotional illnesses, and to expect shared honor of our worth in everything we pursue.

While Americans celebrate freedom tomorrow, I will remember and honor the silent women of history whose voices were never heard, whose yearning for education was never an option, and whose truths were never exposed. This invisible force drives me to share my story with the hope that resonance will ignite courage. Together, we can make beautiful explosions against the dark.

Wishing you all a safe and grateful holiday.

Love, Barbie

Photo by Erwan Hesry

Wednesday Wisdom: Self-Pity

Self-pity is a Black Hole. Wallowing in it, one becomes more and more imbedded in its vacuum, adhering to the immediacy of its relief.

It is normal to feel good after expressing troubles, when we give a voice to the burdens that complicate our lives. Artists have known this for centuries, allowing their hands and minds to express what the heart wants to say. Musicians, writers, poets, artists, crafts men and women turn their internal worlds outward, transferring anguish into music, pain into poetry, struggle into beauty.

To speak truthfully is to own our power. In shared intimacy, sharing hard stories becomes a way through the pain and anger of trauma. Voiced to confidantes, therapists, and with trusted friends, the hold it has on you weakens, allowing your innate strength to unfold, exposing the beautiful art that is only you.

Without transference through literal or figurative voice, emotional wounds fester and toxify the body. Physical ailments which reveal emotional un-wellness can come in the form of anxiety, fatigue, insomnia. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. We live in a culture of stress and egotistical ideals of accomplishment over meaning, accrual over connection.

Voicing problems is too much when it is not growth-oriented. Self-pity is a form of avoidance. Instead of dealing with the root of the pain and gaining insight of their own character, one feels relief through spilling the toxins of their world onto others. But the relief is temporary. Failing to evaluate one’s participation in painful events only means the problems will arise again and again. The person who employs self-pity cannot see beyond their skin. They exist in their own world of tragedy.

We are not in a true relationship with emotional dumpers. Often, they neglect the emotional needs of others, placing themselves first and foremost on their mission to self-impose. Standing in our power to say no, we are never obligated to meet their needs. Giving voice to our heart, we stand firm in the belief that we are worthy of time and compassion, beyond convenience, beyond the spillage that fails to connect.

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To read: A Song for the Beautifully Useful by Barry Maxwell, my writing group companion and advocate for the homeless. His local heart service is Street Lit, providing literature, writing opportunities, and supplies at the Poverello Center, a shelter for the homeless.

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: Wisdom

Daughter #1 is graduating high school on Saturday. What a journey! For fun, I’m copying an experimental blog post I wrote when I was a newbie writer, five years ago, after my daughter turned thirteen. I plan on giving this to her for a graduation gift, something she can take with her and keep forever–because, we always need a Mom. Enjoy!

Dear Teen Daughter,

(I’m not posting your picture because I know you’d be angry that I shared it with every human, entity, and crumb that composes the Milky Way galaxy. (Especially because every single one of them reads my blog.) And just so you know, you DON’T look stupid.)

I’m writing you a list of the ten eleven most important things I want you to stow in the depths of your DNA, because in a matter of years you won’t be one amongst four who love you with all their hearts, but one amongst millions billions who don’t give a crap about your heart.

1. So why don’t we start with heartbreak? It will kill, crush, and pulverize you. You’ll cry yourself drier than the Sahara, road trips with Dad so we don’t have to stop and pee, and then some more. Give yourself time to weep, but then move on. Immerse yourself in something new (like pickle making) and get back into life. Give those pickles to a new, cuter, smarter guy.

2. You are smart. Remember that. Even when you stick your foot in your mouth, the whole world won’t think you’re stupid. They’ll think you’re human. But as I say, just because we’re smart, it doesn’t mean we don’t do stupid things.

3. Be human: care about everyone. I mean care about EVERYONE. From the Donald Trumps to the Donald Ducks, the homeless and the toothless, the hut dwellers and the tent aboders. They’re human and have the same emotional and physical needs that you do.

4. Don’t ask permission. Ex. Don’t ask, “Can I go to the mall?”, rather say those same words in a statement: “To the mall I can go.” If you give the world the option to say no, they will.

5.  Protect your assets. Yes, I meant to say that. This includes your body, your brain, your spirit, and your integrity. DO NOT allow criticism, including your own, to break down your guard.

6. Aim high. Not the weed kind of high, the expectations kind of high, with guys, school, work, friends, and happiness. You’re worth it.

7. Be creative. Creativity solves problems. Unless it’s me sewing. That actually creates problems. Whatever your version of my sewing is, just avoid it.

Gator only loves you when you play!

8. Love animals. A person’s capacity to care for humans can be determined by how they treat animals. Eating certain animals doesn’t count in this. Just look at poor toothless Gator. He loves you so much.

9. Be good at finding things. Females are generally the ones who have to find everything, including finding something good in a person everyone hates. Remember how you found your sister’s tooth for the tooth fairy in the garbage can with spaghetti all over? Keep doing that.

10. Travel the world. It’s a big, big place and you’re likely to get lost, especially when you need to use a bathroom really, really badly. The more you travel, the more you’ll know your place in the world. It just might be a place with a bidet.

11. Love nature. Trees are really great at helping people think, at least for me. Remember how you wore your skateboard helmet at the Bison Range because you were scared terrified mortified of mountain lions? Do what you have to do to enjoy nature. She is a curer of every ill.

Sophie and Aileen, Ages 7 and 9

(OK, I know I said I wouldn’t put up your picture, but this was years ago and you’re both so cute. Sophie looks devious with her deadly blade of grass.)

Love, Mom