Jun 272016
 
Silver linings behind broken hearts

Are there silver linings behind the heart-break in your family stories?

Last week, however, a friend showed me how to look for silver linings.

The news is often disturbing, but in the last couple of weeks the horrors that some people will inflict on others makes me want to run and hide. Only I don’t know where I’d go. Continue reading »

May 272016
 
What else have you lost quote by Havelock Ellis

What else have you lost? How did that loss teach the fine art of living?

Grief often rears its dark, draining head, not just when someone dies.  The onset of many life crises is the loss of something. A relationship, a value, a sense of purpose.  We’ve all experienced a loss of a pet or cherished object (See Writing Your Lost and Found Story.) But what else have you lost during your lifetime?

Loss of a Relationship, Sense of Identity

A loss of a relationship can also entail a loss of an identity. Our worldview changes when life chooses to make an illegal U-turn.

Recently, a friend of mine when through a time of anguish that makes me feel neurotic grieving over my perfectly normal empty nest. Her 20-year-old daughter disappeared from a rehab facility in a major city many hours away from home. For two eternally long months, there was no sign of her child.

Finally, by chance, driving along a major thoroughfare in her own city, she spotted her daughter. The reunion was also a moment of heartbreak. My friend has a hard time talking about it. Though she temporarily located her daughter, my friend’s world had shifted on its axis. In addition to missing her daughter’s physical presence in her home—in her life, the shroud of adulthood that her daughter now possesses limits her ability to help her child who suffers from mental illness and addiction.

When have you had to make peace with a new version of “normal”? A divorce, job loss, or career change can also spark feeling of a loss of identity. How did you right yourself? How did you regain your sense of self? These make great stories, stories with the power to connect across generations.

Innocence Lost

Another friend tells of her pre-teen loss of innocence. The Oakland County child killer and the panic he instilled in the entire Detroit metro area robbed her and her friends of carefree afternoons, riding bikes to each other’s houses. Of going out to play out from under the anxious, watchful eyes of their parents. The bubble of invincibility that buffets children against the horrors of the adult world popped. In its place came an imagination that ran rampant. It colored not only her own development, but the eventual choices she would make as a parent.

Loss of Physical Ability, Memory

There are things that our mortal, frailer-than-we’d-like-to-admit bodies cheat us out of as well. They betray our still active minds by refusing to work, or at least work as well as we’d like. They force us to fight disease instead of those life battles we want to mount.

Perhaps you’ve had to bear helpless witness as a particularly cruel disease causes a family member to misplace memories, even their sanity. Past moments, even the recognition of loved ones, fade into oblivion. Consider writing about these moments of heartache; they tell stories of love and devotion.

What else have you lost?

Along the road, whether by virtue of physical maladies or of the life sh** that happens, we lose things. Intangible things. Confidence. Independence. Hope. Faith. Courage. Our groove.

Don’t you think these moments are important to share? What would you want your loved ones, especially those of future generations, to take away from your story? Of course, they’ll be touched by your loss, but they can also learn from your healing or your renewed perspective. Perhaps they’ll even discover that resilience isn’t inborn, but something that can be gathered along the way, even on the roughest, dirtiest roads.

Havelock Ellis is quoted as saying, “All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” Let your loved ones know how you did that.

Apr 072016
 
Time to take a stand with three people

There sometimes comes a time when keeping peace feels dishonest; it’s time to take a stand.

We want our memories and family stories to be warm and inviting. We want to welcome family into our lives—into our past—through our narratives.  Which is as it should be. But (you knew there was a but coming) that can mute us when it comes to issues that weigh heavily on our hearts and mind. Because not all our family members see things the same way, we self-censure, leaving out anything that is divisive. We don’t share the parts of ourselves that might alienate.

It’s like the old rule about not talking about religion and politics at the table. It keeps the peace, because it keeps anyone at the table from feeling marginalized.  We can focus on our commonalities, our friendship or familial love, without anyone feeling challenged.

Family Peace versus Honesty

Sometimes there comes a time when keeping your stance to yourself becomes—or feels—dishonest. You’re hiding something that you’re passionate about. You’re choking back hurt or offense on a regular basis.

Of course, only you can determine when it’s time to take a stand. You’re the only one in a position to determine if it’s worth crossing that line. You might choose deep breathing over a sparring match or negotiating a minefield of hurt feelings and estrangement.

When it’s Time to Take a Stand

My friend Bobby Ivory likes to say that meaningful discourse needs to “bring more light than heat.”  In other words, enlighten others without putting them on the defensive.  Not easy, I know, but worth the effort.

Writing allows you the luxury of ranting and raging to get your feeling onto paper, then editing those feelings into something you want to share with others. Something that will promote understanding. Insert your “I messages.”  Delete the accusations.

Using Stories to Take a Stand

Storytelling becomes the spoonful of sugar that makes the bitterest of medicine (or reality) go down. Not just in a metaphoric way. The cool people who study neuroscience have found that storytelling allows the listeners’ brain to process stories much differently than they do facts or debates. (Read The Science Behind Storytelling.)

Explain why you’re taking a stand

Please understand it's time to take a stand

Stories can promote understanding

Normally, when you tell your stories, you have the luxury of a friendly, captured audience. You’re ‘preaching to the choir.’ That’s not always the case when you take a stand.  Part of the art of persuasion is to invest your audience in your story. You can do that by explaining why you feel you have to take a stand.

You can even use a third person voice or example, if you don’t want to make the conversation a me-versus-you argument. For instance, if you’re opposed to North Carolina House Bill 2 (full disclosure, I am), you might tell the story of your good friend who is now uncomfortable traveling through the state and how you came to understand his or her situation. A simple rest stop becomes an anxiety attack. Perhaps he or she wonders why private decisions can’t simply remain private without having to suffer the humiliation of visiting an alternative restroom.

Touch hearts and imagination

Touch your readers’ hearts and imaginations by using sensory-rich examples that will help them envision your stance. For instance, when my sons asked why restrooms have to be gender specific in the first place, I tried to explain to them all the things that women do in bathrooms that are completely unrelated to relieving themselves. Since they claim I ruined dinner that day by talking about “adjusting the girls,” I figure I inspired their imaginations. (Apparently they think girls just do a super-thorough job of washing their hands and come out looking fabulous.)

Writing demeanor

When we speak, our body language helps us communicate. We can use open gestures, smiles, and friendly eye-contact to put listeners at ease. That’s harder in writing. As you write and edit, try to put yourself in your readers’ place. What turn of phrases would you use in speech to put them at ease?  How would you acknowledge and de-escalate their discomfiture? Incorporate those verbal tics into your writing.

Your Turn

When did you decide it was time to take a stand? How did that affect your story? How did you write (say) your piece?

 

May 242013
 

Five Minute Fridayis a great writing exercise even if you’re not blogging your treasures (memories). Your spontaneous thoughts on a given subject can reveal your personality, daily life, beliefs, etc. If you are blogging, I encourage you to join in! If you want to connect on Twitter, use the hashtag #FiveMinuteFriday.

This week’s Prompt: View

Prayers of Praise–How to Give Words to Your Heart Continue reading »

Apr 202013
 

Five Minute Fridayis a great writing exercise even if you’re not blogging your treasures (memories). Your spontaneous thoughts on a given subject can reveal your personality, daily life, beliefs, etc. If you are blogging, I encourage you to join in! If you want to connect on Twitter, use the hashtag #FiveMinuteFriday.

This week’s Prompt: JUMP

High Ropes course

High Ropes Course at Howell Nature Center

Jump automatically brings the expression of “leap of faith” to mind. This “leap” has always been a compelling visual image, but it came to mean a lot more to me, when I had to make a physical “leap.”

As part of a Presbyterian family camp at the Howell Nature Center (Howell, MI), we did a high ropes course. We were encouraged to “stretch” our comfort levels. Continue reading »

Apr 062013
 

Every Friday, Lisa-Jo Baker, founder of “Five Minute Friday,” broadcasts a writing prompt, challenging writers to writer for five minutes only. In her words, “It’s not a perfect post, not a profound post, just five minutes of focused writing. “

This is a great writing exercise even if you’re not blogging your treasures (memories). Your spontaneous thoughts on a given subject can reveal your personality, daily life, beliefs, etc. If you are blogging, I encourage you to join in! If you want to connect on Twitter, use the hashtag #FiveMinuteFriday.

After

What happens after the sunset?

Today’s prompt: AFTER

Today’s post provides evidence of what happens when you try to write about a serious topic without turning off the TV.

We think of “after” as in “before and after.” In HGTV terms, the “before” is cramped, out-moded, and undesirable. The “after” is a dream home. Continue reading »

Mar 292013
 

Five Minute Friday#FiveMinuteFriday

Broken….Every Friday, Lisa-Jo Baker, founder of “Five Minute Friday,” broadcasts a writing prompt, challenging writers to writer for five minutes only. In her words, “It’s not a perfect post, not a profound post, just five minutes of focused writing. “

This is a great writing exercise even if you’re not blogging your treasures (memories). Your spontaneous thoughts on a given subject can reveal your personality, daily life, beliefs, etc. If you are blogging, I encourage you to join in! If you want to connect on Twitter, use the hashtag #FiveMinuteFriday.

Today’s prompt: BROKEN

Broken

Broken Reflection

It’s hard not to write about this prompt in terms of Good Friday. That’s obvious to me. We’re broken, yet can be made acceptable (perfect?) through the Resurrection.

But I won’t go there.

It’s a trap to think of people as broken. Continue reading »

Mar 292013
 
WRite about your fiath whatever your background

Four ways to write about your faith without preaching.
Image credit: Religionnerd.com

It can feel awkward to write about your faith. No one wants to create controversy. For that reason, many of us have qualms when it comes to writing about faith and the role it plays in our lives.

The flip side, however, is that writing our stories without including our beliefs or religious upbringing (or even lack thereof) leaves an incomplete picture. There’s good news, however.  There are many ways to write about your faith and share your spiritual side without the reader feeling like you’re hoping to convert them. Continue reading »