Words In Me

At a young age they claimed me.  And I was forever gone.  Roaming the bookshelves in libraries.  Secreting away books too big and too long for me. I read them anyway.

I could learn anything, go anywhere, be anyone.  Still I remained me.  The same and yet a little different with every word I took in.  Hungering and thirsting, more, more, more! No book big enough.

Until one day I discovered I too had words in me.  And all the words I took in came pouring back out.  The same, but different.  In the coming of my own age I could tell my story to the spaces on my page.  No judgment, no remorse, only release.

A secret space reserved for me.  Freed to fly on wings of speech I said all the things I never could out loud. 

The Untethered Soul

I've been reading this book, called "The Untethered Soul", by Michael A. Singer.  This book came to me by way of Marie Forleo (www.marieforleo.com).  She is one of my spiritual "teachers" though we have never met.  In a recent email, she recommended this book as one of her top three.  I had no idea who Michael Singer was, or thought I didn't.  But then, of course, as soon as I looked him up, I recognized having watched him on one of Oprah's Super Soul Sessions.  

Today also happens to be Mother's Day.  I lost my mom in December of 2004, the 21st to be exact.  I miss her terribly, of course.  But she was also an incredible gift to me.  After reading, Chapter 13 in this book, entitled "Far, Far Beyond", I understand better what I mean when I say she was a gift.  Not just in her life, but also in her death.  This is not an easy conclusion for me to come to, and it has taken me years of internal work to be able to step back and objectively see her life in this way.  

What my mother's death did for me was send me out in the beyond.  Everything I thought I knew simply fell apart and I knew nothing would or could ever be the same again.  If she had not left, I am not sure I would have become the person I am today because I had no choice.  All the things that used to work didn't anymore, and I had to reconfigure my entire life.  If she were still here, I am truly not sure that would have happened. 

Michael Singer says, "Going beyond means going beyond the borders of the cage.  There should be no cage.  The soul is infinite.  It is free to expand everywhere.  It is free to experience all of life. This can only happen when you are willing to face reality without mental boundaries.  If you still have barriers, and you know what they are because you hit them every day, you must be willing to go beyond them.  Otherwise you remain within your cage.  And remember, decorating your cage with beautiful experiences, fond memories and great dreams is not the same as going beyond.  A cage by any other name is still a cage."  

I had the good fortune to spend a month in Ireland in January of 2015.  One of my destinations was the Cliffs of Moher.  Absolutely breathtaking, hundreds of meters above a sheer drop to the Atlantic ocean.  I am not terribly fond of heights, but my desire to walk the path on the cliff overcame the need to be safe.  At one point, the path looked like it swung dangerously out over the ocean and I knew I would fall to certain death.  So I stopped and had a talk with myself.  I assured myself that we would be okay, that I would take one step at a time, and that if the path became too dangerous I would turn back.  And then I reminded myself that this was what I had come to Ireland for and I refused to let my own fear define my experience.  As I approached the point in the path, it was much wider than I had first believed and I proceeded to walk the entire southern length of the cliffs.  That little tower you see in the distance,  I walked all the way there and all the way back.  On my trek back I welcomed the incredible views of the ocean instead of being afraid of them because I went beyond my edges, in a very literal sense, and came face to face with a beauty I had only imagined and seen in picture.  Now I had actually lived one of my dreams!  To walk the Cliffs of Moher.

I don't know why it takes an event like that for some of us.  It forced me to come directly into contact with a whole lot of things I never expected to deal with.  I also became a person I don't ever think I would have without first the solid foundation of her love, and then her leaving.  The truth is I still feel her with me and still talk to her.  Even now, 13 years later, I still want to tell her things and then remember I have to do it in a different way.  It is a spiritual relationship now, rather than a physical one.  I often have dreams where I am looking for her and cannot find her.  But the truth is, she lives on, just in a different way.  

Michael Singer also says, "Eventually you will realize that it cannot actually hurt you to go beyond your psychological limits.  If you are willing to just stand at the edge and keep walking you will go beyond.  You used to pull back when it got uncomfortable.  Now you relax and go past that point.  That is all it takes to go beyond...you realize that you will always be fine.  Nothing can ever bother you except your edges, and now you know what to do with them.  You end up loving your edges because they point your way to freedom.  All you have to do is constantly relax and lean into them.  Then one day, when you least expect it, you fall through into the infinite.  That is what it means to go beyond."

His words touched something in my soul and it all came tumbling together and I teared up.  I understood, maybe for even the first time, how her death taught me as much as her life.  I was forced to confront my edges, pushed to the very limits and then beyond what I thought I could ever imagine.  And as I sit here, typing, with her pictures on my desk, I miss her and at the same time I am so, so grateful to her.  She gave me everything I would need to navigate this life.  I love you Mom.  




Create That Shit.

True to my word, here I am again.  Just finished morning pages, and getting ready for my shift at Pier 1.  Working part-time is awesome!  A few weeks ago I decided I had been thinking about this job thing all wrong.  I worked for a lot of years, 25 to be exact, full-time.  I also worked other part-time jobs while working full-time, and then went to school full-time while also working full-time and obtained my four-year degree.  Phew!  That is a lot of working.  For other people.  But now, I have switched it up.  My career, my job is writing.  And creativity.  So whatever "workaday" job I have will be in support of that. 

I intend to work enough to pay my bills, build my savings back up and payoff my debt I accrued from traveling.  I am creating a life I love, on my own terms.  The bulk of the work I do now is work no one ever sees, my creative work.  People tell me "you're so creative" or "I'm just not creative".  I always say bollocks to that because everyone is creative to some degree.  

What you may not realize about creativity is it does not just happen.  It is not that some of us are most blessed with it than others.  It is that some of us decide to make it a priority.  I get up early every day and write 3 pages of gibberish first thing in the morning.  Not for anyone else, just me.  I am working through Julia Cameron's follow-up to the "Artist's Way", "Walking In This World".  I surround myself with people who are also creative, and who support me.  No time for negativity here.  I am reading 2 or 3 or even 4 books at a time, most of that non-fiction.  Current titles on my bookshelf are "True Irish Ghost Stories", "Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change" (Pema Chodron) and "Memories of Old Sellwood".  The last one is part of ongoing research I am doing for one of my books.

And then there are all the day-to-day things to focus on, like exercise, feeding yourself, keeping my space tidy.  If all those things are out of whack, then creating is impossible.  I also need a certain amount of time alone daily to recharge.  I do not like to be alone, but I do need a significant amount of alone time.  When I write, I go into a deep place within myself that no one else is in.  I have to, or I cannot create.  Creativity also spills over into a lot of different areas too.  I can play the guitar, write poetry and blog.  I even go to an open mic where I sometimes read.  I am also getting into photography.  The flow is always there, you just have to decide to jump in.  

It has taken me countless hours upon hours by myself to hone my craft, which is words, first and foremost.  When I do not honor this daily, my soul has a restless energy that does not abate until I create.  Just know that for every blog post you see, who knows how many hours might be behind it.  I have a deep, deep reservoir inside me that I can pull from.  So that is the difference, really.  I have made a very conscious effort to craft a life that supports my writing.  Am I gifted in it?  Probably.  These blog posts take me about 10-15 minutes to write, with very little editing.  But, I have to keep nurturing and growing it otherwise it will wither and die.  I spent a lot of years blocking my own creativity, without even realizing I was doing it.  Now, the river is flowing.  

So jump in!  If there is something you have been dreaming about, a secret, silent tug at your heart, FOLLOW IT!!!  We need people who see and express the beauty of life.  Julia Cameron says art "alchemizes the experiences of our life".  She's right!  The best stuff comes from the worst time.  Maybe if people opened up to their own creativity just a tiny bit, we wouldn't have all the problems we do.  Creatives are the innovators, and point the way to the next "evolution", if you will, of the human race.  We're like scouts, out there on the fringes, encouraging others to come because it is a wondrous, beautiful new world.  If you don't express what is in your soul, it will turn on you and become something ugly and distorted.  As Julia also says, we act out our dramas in life because we are not acting them out on the page or on the canvas.  So get to it.  Start creating.  But just know, once you step on the path, you will never be the same.  


1 Thing That is Really Helping Me Get My Writing Shit Straight.

My brother, Benj Curtis, challenged me to simply work on one of my books for 15 minutes a day.  That's it.  This was on Sunday.  

I'd been fairly stuck in my book writing process.  I had one book with a partially finished first draft, limping along.  A second book had been burning inside me but I told myself I needed to put this one off until I finished the first one.  Talk about a subtle form of self-sabotage.  This way, neither book ever gets written and I can say I am a writer who is writing nothing but morning pages.  Not that there is no value in morning pages.  They simply are not a book.  

It's this little thing called performance anxiety.  "What if it's crap?", "What if it's terrible?", "What if no one likes it?", "What if I can't actually write, but just think I can?", "Why would I write a book, let alone two or more, when there are already so many?".  And on and on it goes.  I have had to learn to tell my inner critic to shut up and go to the corner, tying her into a chair if I have to.  Her name is Edna.  I say, "Edna, go to the corner and be quiet."  And sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn't.  

I get overwhelmed when I think of writing for a four-hour block of time.  Even a two-hour block of time.  But, for whatever reason, this 15-minute thing seems to work for me.  So, for the last two nights, after getting ready for bed but before reading and going to sleep, I set my phone timer for 15 minutes and write.  Guess what happened?  In two sessions, I have almost 1500 words.  

Sometimes I hate admitting this, but my brother was absolutely right.  It's easy for me to do 15-minutes.   And I have found there is something magical about writing when the world is quiet.  Plus, I'm writing kind of a creepy tale so the darkness is a good place to do it.  I write my story out long hand, using a pen or pencil, on good old-fashioned notebook paper.  I date it, number the pages (back and front) and then put it in a plain white binder when I'm done.  

I type the words into my laptop the next day, so I can keep track of word count and don't get overwhelmed by having to type the whole thing in all at once.  I do teeny, tiny edits when I am typing, but for the most part, keep it as raw as I can.  For me, there is something so important about touching pen or pencil to paper.  This is exactly how I write songs.  Chicken scratch on paper, and then I copy it to a computer or somewhere else once it's finished.  Poetry and short stories too. I write them out by hand, messy, scribbled and very rough.  And then I refine them, after I have birthed the initial idea.  

And then I came across this video by Neil Gaiman in one of my emails.  This is why I write.  Not because I am better or smarter, but because no one else can tell the stories I must tell.  Cheers!