2nd Draft Jitters

Yesterday, I completed the second draft of my new book and I have the, “what-if-NO-one-reads-it jitters.” I get this way every time I write a book. I was like this, with the poetry books I collaborated on, and I was convinced no one, except my close friends and husband, would read Untangled.  Gratefully, I was wrong! Untangled, has grown some beautiful little toddler legs and is selling nicely each month.

I belong to a writers group, and I know the angst of releasing a book is a mixture of excitement, fear, and hope. The excitement of sending your work out for the world to read, the fear of rejection and the hope that your words will touch someone, and perhaps, that moves them to recommend the book to another, and the chain reaction of selling your book begins to unfold.

I play a lot of mental gymnastics with my book sales and what I deem successful.  With the poetry book, I set a goal of selling 250 copies. If I sold that many then I would feel okay. That many sold and more, and I did feel okay, then I allowed myself the luxury of getting my beautiful lotus tattoo. I continue to set goals for Untangled. I have reached all of them and more. I’m blown out of the water by the response.

So why is it so hard for me to call myself a writer and author? Is it because I do not see my books on the best seller list? Is it because I haven’t entered it into book award contests and therefore don’t have stickers to put on the front cover of my book? Or is because I’m a self-published author and don’t have a big publishing house logo on my cover? No, none of those are true.

I have many, many friends who are artists. Many are painters, photographers,  writers, or awesome crafters. Many of them, like myself, are their own worst critics.   Perhaps that keeps our egos at bay and keeps our creativity flowing.

I have no answers as to why I have the 2nd draft jitters. Well, I have a little bit of an inkling. The 2nd draft now goes to my very competent editor. She is red-penned ready and so am I! Of course, the thought of having to do a 3rd and 4th draft is not enticing. The dread of the editing process is what has stopped me from moving forward the past few months.

I’m ready to shake off the jitters, go to my aerobics class and sweat for an hour and know that I’m one draft closer to releasing my next book.

Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

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What’s a house got to do with it?

Most of us remember the nuances of the houses we grew up in. We know the nooks and crannies, and the sounds the house makes when it settles and groans. We know the clicking noise of the furnace kicking in, the whistling sound of the wind blowing through the windows, and how the gate slams as someone makes their way to the door. We can trust our way in the dark during power outages or to sneak food from the refrigerator at midnight because we know where the furniture is and where the stairs begin and end.

I lived in three different houses growing up, the first two in Michigan and the third in Minnesota. Each move brought more carpeting.  I lost the early warning system that wooden floors and creaky steps gave me as the carpet grew wall-to-wall.

The first nine years of my life I lived in Grant. I remember everything about that house. I could draw it in great detail; actually, I could draw all three houses in great detail. I liked this house the best, not only because the floors and stairs were wooden and creaky, but because I shared it with all my siblings at the same time. My parent’s attention was divided between the four of us children. When I was nine and we moved to the suburbs, the attention shifted away from my siblings and the spotlight fell directly on me.

Inside that first house, my bedroom was my refuge because of the windows. My sister and I had beds beneath the two windows looking out towards the front of the house. There was another window with a window-seat on the side of the room that faced the neighbor’s house. During the day, I would sit on the window-seat and read. Most nights as I lay in bed, I would turn my head towards that same window and imagine fire consuming the side of the neighbor’s house; intense bright orange flames licking high into the air. I was young but I was already finding ways to externalize the pain that was coursing through my body.

The living room was large and filled with gray furniture covered in thick plastic that you stuck to in the summer and froze on in the winter. The dining room had a fireplace along one wall, double glass doors leading to a porch, and a swinging door leading into the kitchen. That swinging door would make an earsplitting banging sound when an angry parent would smack it open when coming into or going out of the dining room. The kitchen had ugly dark green linoleum and two steps leading from it that either led you outside or if you turned right, led you down a steep set of stairs into the basement. The basement had a large room where the boys would use their wood burning sets and a corner where my father had his easel set up, a place where he would draw charcoal portraits of the family and neighbors.

Aside from the linoleum in the kitchen and the concrete of the basement, the rest of the house had hardwood floors and stairs. A few area rugs covered the center of the rooms but they did nothing to mask the sound of people walking or climbing the stairs.

The backyard seemed huge to me as a little girl.  We had a few apple trees, cattails growing behind the garage, and a round swimming pool. I remember the wild raspberries that grew against the chain link fence.

I played alone in that backyard for long periods of time. My refuge was behind the garage in a corner along the neighbor’s fence. There I stayed hidden, out of sight from all the windows on the back of the house and the porch. Standing behind the garage, hearing my heart beat like a hummingbird, I petted the cattails that grew by the fence. I picked the tiny purple violets to make bouquets that I would grip as tightly if they were my last friends in the world. I didn’t care that they wilted with the heat of my hands; I just wanted to look at the delicate petals and drink in their color. It was a solitary existence but solitary was far better than any kind of attention that I received inside of that house.

The energy inside our house was super-charged. Tension crackled in the air like electricity, no matter how many of us were inside. If there wasn’t some kind of abuse going on, there was a silence that hung so thick and heavy that I would find myself looking down at the floor, or fidgeting, not knowing what to do with your hands. Opera or classical music sometimes blared from the stereo, a macabre contrast to the silence. At other times the volume of the music would alert us to what was going to happen next; the rising crescendo seemed to egg my parents on and steel us for explosive abuse.

excerpt from chapter 1, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

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Thank you for reading Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

Grief and Mindfulness

Some mindfulness masters teach, that you cannot fully begin to meditate until you have wept deeply. I once read a story of a Zen teacher who flirted with meditation for years before he decided to commit. He recalled how he wept openly and often for two years and after he had grieved for many things in his life, only then was he able to sit in silence.

I was sitting outside this morning, enjoying the beautiful day when I began to feel the pull of profound grief and sadness for the life I had uncovered. For the loss, for the pain, for the torture, for the years that I clung to survival as my only way of life. Sad for the years of having no hope, no dreams, no promises made…thinking that whoever came into my life would go. Not by virtue of old age, sickness or played out friendships. But would just turn around and go. I don’t dwell there very long anymore, but sometimes, it’s a place I walk through after being triggered. 

I began to recall the lesson about weeping. I thought about the many times during guided meditation that I would begin to shed tears. Not weeping, but feeling the unmistakable wetness on my cheek from tears. Feeling the tears stream down my cheeks, I stopped and pulled myself back to reality. The reality of kids, shopping lists or work. Never understanding that perhaps those tears marked the beginning of my spirit wanting to open up, cleanse myself through grief and help guide me on my path. I couldn’t tip-toe around those intense feelings, I didn’t understand that there is openness after grief, and it is an important part of life and growth. 

Before I came in to write this, I grabbed a leaf that was floating down from a tree, made a wish, blew it away and came in to write.

I wished I could go away deep in the woods without the sounds of the world and cry. I thought about a story I once read of a girl in the silver boat who had gone through the woods and came out on a beautiful shore. I thought about my intense pull to grieve, and to also have the life I want to live. I yearn to go into the woods without the sounds of the world and cry. But I get triggered in the woods, bad things happened in the woods. And, still, I love the woods! My desire to go into the woods to grieve, to find peace, is coupled directly with trauma so triggering that going into the woods is a challenge. Mindfulness comes in by bringing myself back to the present, after experiencing a flashback. But, that’s not the simple experience I want for my life, my grief, my practice. It’s a paradox. 

I realize that the girl in the silver boat and the zen master who said they wept for years are stories. They are books, metaphors that help show us another way and provide hope and give us the strength to keep trying, keep breathing.  Admittedly, sometimes I don’t have faith in my ability to heal completely. I can stay in my head and trick myself into thinking it just the words I am supposed to feel, not feelings, I am supposed to feel.

My body, my mind, my soul wants to feel the feelings and grieve whatever it is I need to grieve. I yearn to be like those who have the ability to find solace in quiet places. Who emerges from a weekend alone with full cups and peace in their heart. I’m not ready to dwell in those quiet places. I have been wonderfully surprised that some mindfulness teachers are saying, that if a person is working through trauma, perhaps sitting and meditating is not the best path at the moment. For me, that’s the way it is right now. I accept it and respect the reality and the process of healing. Someday, I may be able to cry an ocean of tears that will take me through the woods, to the sparkling sea, and then be able to sit on the cushion just acknowledging my thoughts vs spinning into the past. 

I am not a Zen teacher. I don’t necessarily want to be able to sit for hours. I try to live mindful, present and surf the waves of emotion as they happen. I also intend to stay the path.  I set my intention every morning, I try to evolve, but know deep down inside that without shedding the tears, feeling the words, experiencing the grief, I will never heal the way I want to heal. Without grieving over the life that was, I will continue to open the scab without letting it healing into a beautiful gnarly scar. 

photo: pixabay

Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

 

My mind’s “junk-drawer”

We have a “junk-drawer” in our kitchen. It’s the drawer where coupons, batteries, a hammer, screwdriver, pliers, tape measures, a flashlight, matches, lighters, cat-nip,  and the assorted 1/2 used birthday candle packages lay scattered about. It’s a small drawer, but it seems, it has the room of Mary Poppins magic bag. It holds everything and when we (meaning my husband) tries to clean and organize it once in a while, it is amazing the gifts we find in there. We probably will never have to buy another tube of super-glue or a magnet again. I wouldn’t describe myself as fastidious, but I do have a place for everything, everything has a place in my home; the junk-drawer is the exception.

I have the wonderful ability to compartmentalize. In fact, one of the visuals that I used when my repressed memories started to emerge, was that the file cabinets burst their seams and the drawers came busting out. I could no longer close them, I had to begin to process my past. In fact, the last file-drawer, the one that was never to be opened, I  purposefully unlocked, went through it and was able to deal with the last of those compartmentalized locked up memories. I needed to go 100% in and not leave anything locked away. I wanted and needed to process my past.

It seems I have a junk-drawer in my mind.  It’s different than the “monkey-mind” I get when I sit down to meditate. This is the place where random mind-spinning thoughts live when I try to sleep, or where self-doubt resides waiting to be pulled out, or the should be doing, why did you eat that, did you work out enough today, or as I found the other night while lying in bed the image of a scary movie I didn’t see will pop in my head.

One of the terrible symptoms of PTSD is nightmares. One of the tools to practice when you get into bed is good sleep-hygiene. I usually listen to a podcast every night to stave off the night jitters. The other night I was laying there enjoying the breeze coming through the window, and BAM, the clown from the latest horror movie popped in my head. Someone in my facebook feed had gone to see the movie and shared the picture letting all their FB friends how much they loved it.

Somehow that picture popped up in my minds-eye and wouldn’t leave. I even said aloud, “that’s dumb, go away now,”  and turned up the dharma talk. But nope, in the junk drawer of my mind, that one clown turned into a whole posse and would not get out of my head. That’s how I decided that I must have a junk drawer in my mind, that holds the random bits of life that just get in your head, as well as the things I need to take out every now and then.

Perhaps I just keep putting more and more in that drawer until it needs to be organized. The real junk is thrown away (like the clowns) and the rest neatly put back until I open it and invite the messy sides of my human nature out to acknowledge, learn from and put away. The hammer, lighters, batteries, and other “essentials’  in our house have a small drawer in our kitchen, I guess, I decided, that I also have a small drawer in my mind  that holds my “junk.”

image source: Pixabay

Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

Her Present Needed Her Past

The door heaved open exposing

the dark, dusty gloom of the past.

Walking into, and resting in each room

the light began to pour in from all the love she feels in the present.

The past and the present began to live together.

Sometimes contentious, but with a newly learned respect.

Intuitively, she knew her present needed her past so she could learn, change and grow.

As a new season begins, she holds hands with her past, lives in the present, and rests.

 

©Alexis Rose, photographer: Janet Rosauer from the collaboration, If I Could Tell You How it Feels. 

Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

Hope from a Children’s Book

I am a first generation American. Both my father and mother immigrated after World War II and brought with them, layer upon layer of secrets from their past.

My mother emigrated from Germany to Boston; my father emigrated from Hungary by way of Calgary, to Boston. Both came from complicated upbringings and the horrors of war. My mother’s strong European bloodline and my father’s tragic life story helped me eventually understand, but not excuse, their willingness to betray their own daughter for the good of a country.

By the time I was five years old, I already had hopes and dreams of being able to live alone. I had a book called Miss Suzy, about a squirrel who lived alone high atop an oak tree. Miss Suzy cooked, cleaned, and sang all day. At night, she was lulled to sleep by the gentle wind and the stars. One day a band of red squirrels sneaked into her house, broke all her things, ate up all her food and chased her away. Homeless and rain-soaked, she climbed a tree and found another home in the attic of an old house.  She lived in a doll house where she found a box of toy soldiers who came to life. When Miss Suzy told them about what happened to her in the oak tree, the soldiers marched up the tree, kicked out the red squirrels and Miss Suzy moved back home.

In my five-year-old mind, this tale had many relatable metaphors. I compared myself to the story’s heroine. It gave me hope that I could also live alone in a tree, and I began dreaming up ways to escape my family. But I knew, even then, that unlike Miss Suzy I wasn’t going to be rescued by a group of chivalrous soldiers.  I knew that all the adults in my life were the same. They kept secrets.

Like most abuse victims I ached for someone to rescue me, but I also knew that I wasn’t living in anything like a storybook. I loved the Miss Suzy book because she was so happy living on her own after the toy soldiers saved her home. She didn’t need anyone else in her life, she was safe and happy.

By a very early age, I had stopped hoping that my family would be vanquished by a company of toy soldiers. I knew the only way out of my situation was if I left and found my own place to live. Instead of an oak tree, I began to fantasize about living beside a deep blue lake surrounded by soft sand and white cliffs.  As I look back, that fantasy of taking control, leaving my family and finding a peaceful existence, nourished my amazing ability to survive.

An excerpt  from my memoir,  Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph