The way is love

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The hot and cold of novel writing: Is it writer’s block or inner growth?

writing

I have written about 80% of my first draft. And then stopped.

I’m not sure why.

My characters are moving through my head, and sometimes I even hear them speaking to me, but for a few months now I haven’t worked on my novel. And it’s been in the works–from scene weave to first draft–for years!

Why?

I have asked myself this many, many times. And castigated myself too for maybe not being driven, being too lazy, not being able to focus, not believing in myself… The list goes on.

And as I was in the shower this morning (a great place to think by the way!) I realized that a novel is like any other work of art.

If you asked a painter why it took them years to finish a certain work, they might say they had to grow within themselves before the work finished itself. And so it is I believe with me.

I needed to get to a certain place in my own inner world before my main character could as well. And since she is coming alive through me, I guess that makes perfect sense now that I think about it.

My first draft is printing away next to me, and I will read it through to get back into the story once again. Then I will sit down every morning and write.

Wish me luck.

And I hope all you writers out there don’t give up.

Writing is a rather lonely endeavour, but the benefits are so broad.

Just think of how wonderful a beautiful book affects your heart and your soul, and remember your work could do the same for someone too.

So please, please, please, write on!

 

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From the series, Write on! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

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Perception transforms our choices

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Choices, life is about the choices we make.

I’ve heard many wise people, people who I respect, say this. And to a certain extent it’s true.

But even more so I believe our life choices are based on our perceptions.

Only six months ago, I perceived my world very differently than I do now.

My inner world has changed–the way I perceive myself, who I am–and therefore my perceptions of my outer world have changed in stride as well.

Because I don’t see myself the same way, I don’t see others the way I did either.

I have found this change in my perception very freeing, and very transformative.

For me, it has been a very positive experience.

I am kinder with myself, more accepting of my mistakes and my ability to take responsibility for them, first within myself and then with anyone I need to.

I can face myself without shame or guilt, and that is very new for me.

And because I’m able to do that, I can face others without shame or guilt as well.

I can tell a person that I feel I’ve treated poorly that I accept that I did and that I’m truly sorry. I no longer expect myself to be perfect, and therefore I no longer expect anyone else to be either.

Because perfection sets everyone up to fail. No one can ever be perfect, so no one is ever good enough.

Living in a life perceived as continually unattainable is a recipe for guilt and shame to combine and grow.

And I lived that life until very recently.

There is a kindness about the universe, the world we live in, that I firmly believe in now.

But as I was growing up I didn’t.

I experienced pain and punishment and random cruelty.

So I brought that into my adult life unknowingly.

And that perception filtered through all the rest of my life. My relationships, my work, my connection with myself.

But now that that is over, my choices are very different. Even when I’m in the same situations as six months ago, my way of seeing them and therefore handling them is different. Changed. Transformed.

I am grateful for the people in my life who have not given up on me through it all. The people I love who have allowed me to make the mistakes, and come back after and apologize and move on.

It is through these generous people that I know deep down inside myself that my world is kind. And for me that has changed everything.

 

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From the series, Because I’m a woman and because I can! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

Use your voice and your word: You’re more powerful than you know

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The speech that Oprah made at the Golden Globes was so very important. Not only for young girls watching the show, but for everyone who has ever been victimized in any way.

She is an amazing speaker, and respected by many because of her outstanding accomplishments and her unending search for the truth. And coming from the background she did, her speech had all the more credibility.

She has bravely admitted in front of millions of people the sexual abuse she endured as a girl, and her resulting pregnancy. And how she felt losing that child was an opportunity for her to be who she needed to be.

So when Oprah stood there in front of a room filled with women and men who had been preyed upon by powerful men in their industry, she was speaking to a room of courageous people who have used their voices to help heal everyone.

Coming out about being sexually assaulted is an extremely courageous act. Standing up and saying, “I’ve been a victim!” is one of the hardest things a person can do. Because you feel at fault, that you should’ve been stronger or smarter to be able to avoid or get out of the situation. That it shouldn’t have happened to you.

But when we hear the voices of so many who have been assaulted, we know it happens far more than we ever imagined. And that we’re not at fault for being in a certain place at a certain time. We are not at fault for people’s sick ideas of their right to invade another person’s personal space. Another person’s intimate life.

I cannot know why a person feels like forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do. I cannot know why that excites them or makes them feel powerful. It’s a sickness, but where it originates is likely as unique as each person and their experiences.

The fact that it is so pervasive is extremely disturbing.

Where has this originated in our collective psyches? And why do so many men feel they can get away with it? Because they have been getting away with it over and over since time began.

But as Oprah said, “It ends here! And it ends now!” An historical moment for victims everywhere.

It brought goose bumps to my body when she said that. I could feel a shiver run through me.

And it is all about using your voice and speaking your personal truth.

It takes great courage to speak our personal truths.

I read blogs every day where people are doing exactly that. They are speaking up for who they are and where they’ve been and where they’re going.

And they’re all amazing.

And all amazingly courageous.

Today I’m thankful for the voice and the word because without them the victimization of vulnerable people would continue.

I believe this is only a small drop of awareness in a large ocean, but it is a very important drop because it will spread waves out into many aspects that we aren’t even aware of yet.

And that is what our voices and our words are all about.

 

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From the series, Because I’m a woman and because I can! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

Feeling free–It’s about beliefs

It’s one of those days where I feel as if something is changing drastically.

As if my world is moving very differently.

I sat writing this morning wondering what was going on around me. What could I feel so keenly?

And then I thought about it some more and realized that it was more likely something going on inside of me than outside of me.

I tend to attribute changes to my exterior world, at least at first, but I have learned with experience that in a lot of ways we create our own realities.

And I have been feeling very different inside myself for the last few months. I would say it began in September and hasn’t ceased since then.

Of course, the changes within me have happened gradually. Bit by bit parts of me have kind of woken up. The possibility for awareness was always there, but just hadn’t opened its eyes yet. My eyes are now open.

I have been dreaming a lot. And my last dream really made me think.

Dream: I was walking down a hallway with doors on either side and bright light coming from the end of the hallway in front of me. A woman was standing off to the side in one of the doorways and she told me to do something. I very quickly and decisively told her why I wouldn’t, that her request was unreasonable and holding my shoulders square and my back straight, I kept walking right past her without looking back, and walked into the light at the end of the hallway. The woman was shocked and watched me continue walking in disbelief.

I believe the woman was my old self.

I used to believe I wasn’t lovable. That I wasn’t worthy of other people’s love and respect. I don’t believe that anymore.

I used to believe I couldn’t support myself and my son. That I didn’t have what it took to look after myself and my son in this world. I don’t believe that anymore.

I used to believe that being in a relationship meant being treated as second and being disrespected. I no longer believe that anymore.

I used to believe that I had to sacrifice my own happiness for that of my parents. I no longer believe that anymore.

And though I have been coming to these realizations since I left home at 18, it has still taken me 27 years to fully learn these lessons by degrees.

Because I grew up in a household where I was taught I was inconvenient, a nuisance, a suck, less than in pretty much every way, I grew up believing I was unlovable.

And that trickled down into everything else I did. Even though I was a very good student, and was praised highly by my teachers, I never felt good enough. And even though I went on to get a good education, I still believed I couldn’t support myself and my son.

And because my relationship with one of my parents was abusive, I believed that being in a relationship included abuse. So I accepted being treated as second and disrespected.

And sacrificing who I was for my parents was part of the abusive cycle and also being an only child. So much pressure was put on me to look after things when I was far too young, in some ways my parents actually reversed the parent-child role with me.

It is only within the last year or two that I’ve learned to have fun and not take life so seriously. In other words, I’ve stopped being so goddamned hard on myself.

And I laugh a lot more and worry a lot less. And I believe in myself.

This is not a coincidence. We are so often harder on ourselves than anyone else. And take responsibility for others who really are not ours to carry on our shoulders at all.

But I have learned that some people are lazy. Becoming, growing, changing is a lot of hard work, and most people simply don’t want to do it. So they latch onto someone else who they expect to do it for them.

I have been that someone. And when they weren’t happy with their lives, who do you think they blamed? Me. So much easier to blame me than for them to actually grow up and take responsibility for themselves.

But that woman walking down that hallway towards the light was refusing to carry anyone else any longer. I believe that was the look of shock and disbelief on the other woman’s face.

I used to think that if I didn’t carry people no one would love me. I no longer believe that any more.

And no wonder my world looks and feels different. Carrying those false beliefs around must have been a heavy load, and must have obscured my view of my world too.

If my world looks different, I believe that’s a good thing. I am finally seeing myself for who I really am, not who others have wanted, needed or expected me to be.

I feel free. Now I think I’ll go dance and giggle some more.

 

 

 

 

When abusers come to visit

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I have some guests coming up for the weekend. My mother and my step-father.

When I talk about being abused as a child, it was by my mother.

And, yes, I do still let her into my home. Why?

  • I have a son and he has the right to have a relationship with his grandmother
  • I confronted her about the abuse and she apologized
  • We have worked on our relationship for over ten years and she accepts what she did to me, she doesn’t deny it, and she allows me to be myself

I know most abusers don’t admit their actions. And in that way I suppose I’m lucky, if you could call it that. At least she accepts what she did.

I am under no illusions that she is “better,” however.

She said she doesn’t remember what she did to me. I believe her because a lot of people when they’re abusive and mentally unwell don’t know quite what they’re doing. That’s no excuse, don’t misunderstand me. I still know what she did to me was very wrong, and I am still working through the wounds.

In a lot of ways I find it ironic that I can have her in my home and enjoy spending time with her.

For a while it was still a bit sick, I still wanted to earn her love. When my son was young I still carried that everlasting hope that she’d become the mother I wanted to have. The mother I deserved. But I know now she will not be that woman.

I went through years and years of hating her for what she did, but I didn’t express it and turned it inwards, hence my depression and anxiety.

I think her behaviour really hit home for me psychologically after I had my son. I have always considered my son a miraculous gift, and I could never imagine treating him the way my mother treated me. The idea is abhorrent to me. I am not an abuser, never have been. Maybe that’s why I can forgive her to a certain extent.

I know for myself that keeping that anger alive ultimately only hurts me, and the people I love. If I’d kept holding onto the anger I would’ve become more and more diseased by various physical and mental problems because I’d be holding that hate inside myself. I have decided I just don’t want to do that.

And over the last two years since I had my breakdown, I’ve been slowly ridding myself, layer by layer, of all that pain and hate. It’s been very hard to let go because I’d learned to use it as fuel to keep going on. But now I use love as fuel, and that’s been an eye-opening transition for me.

So when my mother walks through my door this afternoon, I can honestly greet her with my heart. Not a naively hopeful heart, I know she isn’t the mother I really wanted, but in some ways I feel lucky that she’s my mom. And I think that’s healthy, and okay.

 

The good, the discouraging and the perspective

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I feel pretty mixed up today.

I’ve had some really good things happen and some discouraging things happen. I suppose somewhere in between them there’s balance.

Good things

I received a really nice message from a man on a singles site. I had shown interest in him and he let me know that he’s about to meet someone and doesn’t like to pursue more than one woman at a time. He said my profile was very interesting, but he wanted to see how things go with the other woman first. I thought that was very honest and filled with integrity. And I thanked him for letting me know. He’s renewed my faith in the online dating scene.

I also found out that my ex-husband, the father of my son, wants to spend more time with my son. My son has been with me 100% of the time for about six months. I guess his dad is missing him. So I may have my three evenings a week back, and my son may be seeing more of his dad, which is very good. Especially since my son’s 16. He needs a man’s influence in his life too.

Discouraging things

I woke up and realized I have a yeast infection. Often after I take antibiotics I get one. I just feel as if with my woman garden (thank you Jenny Lawson for this term!) it’s been one thing after another. First the UTI, now this. Blah!

I know it’s not really a big deal or even that unexpected, but I’m tired of feeling tired. The UTI kind of knocked me out, and often the yeast infection medication does too.

I’ve been worried about making enough money for a while now, and it’s damned difficult to be productive when all you feel like doing is curling up in a ball and sipping on tea! Something about this feels so November in Canada. It’s a month where everything is going to sleep or dying, we are overwhelmed with grey all around us and it’s getting cold and it’s dark so early we feel like going to bed at 5pm. Not an inspiring month.

And when I went for my healing treatment on Monday apparently the first two chakras are linked to creativity and our financial life. Figures! No wonder my woman garden is unsettled.

Perspective

But then as I was driving back from the pharmacy feeling sorry for myself I realized that compared to some of the things going on in the world, a yeast infection isn’t much. And the UTI isn’t much either. Even my financial concerns are only temporary.

My heart goes out to the families of the victims in Paris and the countless others physically hurt from the terrorist attack. Now that is something really beyond discouraging, and has made me realize I’m having a pretty regular day.

 

The dangers of denying who we are

Jacqueline Snider

I have a history of denying my self.

  • I have been underweight for most of my life.
  • I have lived my life to please others, including my parents, my boyfriends, my husbands and my son.
  • I have denied my feelings to make other people happy.

These behaviours are not uncommon for a woman in North America, and likely in a lot of other places in the world too.

Rather than growing up being encouraged to look within myself for my direction on my health, relationships and career, I was encouraged to be what others were comfortable with me being. And that has done me a lot of harm.

That mentality of living for others, trickles down into all sorts of dangerous and insidious places.

I consider practically starving myself very dangerous. Being on the border of anorexic for most of my life and actually being proud of denying my body what it needed is very sick. It was partly a form of control on my part, but also I was denying the fact that I’m a naturally curvy woman. There’s so much media pressure to be a skeletal woman that it’s hard when you’re more naturally curvy, as most women are and should be.

Trying to please my parents, boyfriends, husbands and even my son comes from my early programming as a little girl. My mother used to yell at me, “Why can’t you read my mind?” so of course I did my best to read hers and everyone else’s. And I became very good at it, which is also pretty sick. That didn’t teach me how to read my own, however. In fact quite the opposite.

And then my feelings suffered immeasurably. Did I even know my own? Or did they change with every person I was with? And I totally lost touch with them when I denied myself so much that I had a breakdown. I was severely depressed.

And what have I been doing since then? I have been denying myself the right dose of anti-depressant medication. At first I took the full dose, but as I got better I tried to wean myself off of it. I experienced a boomerang effect that I caught fairly quickly, but it scared the hell out of me. My mind had started racing again, I couldn’t sleep, and my anxiety climbed. I went back up to only the half dose. And now I ask myself why. Why was I denying my brain and body what it needed?

That’s my pattern. It’s almost automatic, and it’s taken me almost two years to see that. I went to the pharmacy yesterday to get more pills and the pharmacist took me aside and asked me why I’m behind on my prescription. She reminded my I should not stop them. And with her insistent, rational words I had my ah-ha moment (thanks, Oprah!) and I thought, “My God, I’ve been doing it again!”

This time I wasn’t hard with myself like I would’ve been and I took the full dose last night for the first time in over a year.

I consider this a personal victory.

I don’t care when I realize these old automatic self-destructive habits are still part of my life, I’m just thrilled with myself when I do.

We must learn to be gentle with ourselves. And I moved another step in that direction yesterday.

 

 

 

Being whole: For the first time

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What happens when everything we thought was holding us back disappears?

When what we believed was limiting us we realize actually no longer exists?

Byron Katie went and sat in the desert for months, and Eckhart Tolle slept on park benches for a couple years. And I am beginning to understand why.

When we see things so completely differently than we have for the first part of our lives, we must just be with it. Just sit with a new way of being. That’s the only way I can describe it.

And that’s how I feel. I don’t feel broken open, for the first time in my life I feel whole. And as I walk around doing regular things, I feel a bit freaked out to be honest. But not in an anxious way, more as if I’m somewhere I’ve never really been before. Because the way I feel inside is so unfamiliar.

And I wonder if where I was before will come and try to pull me back into the life I used to lead. As if a monster from under the bed is going to reach up and pull me under. Could that actually happen? I don’t think so. I don’t identify with that life anymore.

Maybe that’s my ego dying? And trying to pull me back into where I used to be to survive? That’s possible.

But I know I won’t go.

I feel freaked out, but powerful too. And as I was walking doing my shopping yesterday, I saw all the families around me shopping as couples. And I remembered shopping with a man and how much I enjoyed the sharing of it. And I also enjoyed being there on my own, doing it myself. I didn’t feel sorry for myself that I was alone. That would only be a story. I was perfectly happy being there alone. After all, we are only truly ever with ourselves.

And as I felt that, I also realized that I am perfectly happy with my life exactly as it is. Where I am is exactly where I want to be. I’m not sure I’ve ever been able to say that before. Not wholeheartedly. And that’s really it. Quite literally. For the first time in my life my heart is whole. The heartache that I’ve carried with me as a girl is gone.

I never would’ve believed it was possible. I was so used to suffering. Aching deep inside. And now suddenly the ache is healed.

I feel like thanking people for helping me get here. For apologizing to people for giving them only part of who I truly am. And then I think no. I could only be who I was at any particular time. I have done the best I could.

I never set out to be less than who I am. Situations in my life robbed me of parts of myself for a while, but now they’re back. I am forever grateful.

Today I am grateful for my journey. For all the authors I’ve read, for all the friends I’ve had, for my family, my animals, and myself. For never giving up on myself. For never giving up.

 

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From the series, Because I’m a woman and because I can! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

A new year for my soul: Being who I truly am through The Work

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A new year has begun and for me it is significant.

Even though I went to bed before midnight, and didn’t celebrate the new year with any ceremony, I still believe that starting fresh is good for my soul.

I have started reading Byron Katie’s newest book A Mind At Home With Itself, and it is exactly what I need right now. And that is no coincidence.

I have done her Work before, but kind of forgot about it and realize now it is something I need to come back to and do consistently in my life.

If you haven’t tried doing her Work, you can look it up, read about it, watch videos of it and learn just how effectively it can help you be truthful to yourself, and everyone else in your life.

The Work is four questions that help you see what’s really happening in your life, not what you may imagine is happening or even may be hoping for.

Doing The Work consistently takes a lot of courage because for me it means letting go of old patterns that felt comfortable, but were harmful to my soul.

I now take responsibility for the fact that I was spending time with people who weren’t good for me based on old beliefs about myself that were never true. I had internalized those beliefs as a child because seeing the reality of my life was simply too hard for me as a young girl.

But I am no longer a young girl and I have come to terms with my childhood and the people who hurt me. I can move beyond hurting myself because I believe that’s all I deserve and be truthful to who I am, and other people in my life.

And so on this first day of a new year, I will move beyond the pain of my childhood and take responsibility for who I am now and who I spend my time with, and how I let them treat me.

And that begins with how I treat myself.

I’m thankful for my inquiring mind and people like Byron Katie who have lived through very difficult times and come out the other side to help people be who they truly are.

 

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From the series, Because I’m a woman and because I can! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

Using plain language in self-help writing connects writers with their readers

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Sometimes when I read self-help books, I have trouble with the language the writers have used to express their ideas.

I’m a writer who is firmly in the simple language camp, and I’m not impressed when writers use flowery language or three-dollar words (as my mother calls them) to sound as if they “know” more than they do, or more than the average person.

I have read many, many self-help books, and some of my favourite authors are Eckhart Tolle, Don Miguel Ruiz, Christiane Northrup, Elizabeth Lesser and Byron Katie for their amazing ideas and the plain way they have chosen to express them.

It is not easy to talk about the self, but I still believe that catch phrases and cute words separate readers from the true ideas the authors are trying to express.

Maybe the authors do this on purpose to seem distinctive, to stand out for their readers, or maybe they really talk the way they write, but I endeavour not to use jargon when I’m describing my experiences because I feel jargon separates me from other people.

I do come from a psychology background having a BA specialization in psychology, which is heavily scientifically based. And therefore I have read countless research papers on the life of the mind that did not use any cute, catchy phrases at all.

I know the DSM-5 likely has it’s own jargon, but that’s more so that psychologists and psychiatrists can speak to each other about the same conditions with the same words, not to sound hoity-toity. And that I understand.

I like very much how Eckhart Tolle explains clearly what he means by the words he uses, and he openly admits that it is difficult to discuss consciousness and being on paper, and even with words. It is a presence or a sense of being after all. Something we feel and experience, not chat about with our hairdressers, for example.

But still I felt this was a topic that I wanted to write about because a book I’m reading right now sometimes uses words that I feel put space between myself and their words.

I’m also writing this as a caution to myself because any writer can get caught up with jargon, and I remember one of my editors told me something very profound, “If you can’t explain clearly what a word means then you can’t use it in an article.” And this is so true.

I believe that for some writers words become a safety zone that they use to keep people away from their ideas, likely because they aren’t too secure with their ideas in the first place.

I’ve done this and likely all writers have done this, especially when they are writing about something they don’t feel they fully grasp or have an in-depth knowledge about.

So as I go on to express my inner experience, I will attempt to use as simple and clear language as I can. Because to understand myself is one thing, but to be able to clearly express my inner experience to others is something quite else.

And that is definitely my goal.

No one is alone in this journey we call life, and we all have our own inner worlds that we need to know and honour to fully grow in our lives.

I am sharing mine, and in doing so I hope it helps you with your journey.

Namaste.

I bow to you.

 

From the series, Because I’m a woman and because I can! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

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