The Power of Story

What a series. We lit some dynamite this week, didn’t we? I had looked forward to introducing the all-star band of storytellers who had so much to teach us but they were the ones to be astonished by the level and depth of your response. Watching the relationships unfold was wonderful.

The success of the series Outsider, Looking In made me think again about the power of storytelling. Why would most of us – even a nerd like me – rather read a story than a textbook? Even to the point of spending years making them up for the hours it takes to read something called fiction? It’s as simple as that we are less lonely when we open ourselves to the world of another human being. Information alone doesn’t give us a sense of attachment or community. Which is why you have the social misfit geniuses, their mind plenty enlarged. Stories engage and expand our spirit. We don’t just get smarter. We can become more compassionate. There is a kind of osmosis that takes place between storyteller and listener. Attending one another’s burdens opens windows of insight in our heart. Textbooks offer answers but stories take us into the mystery we call life and lend us courage to live the uncertainties.

Something I admired about our guest writers this week is the way they came to be able to reject self-pity and take ownership of the ball waiting in their court. Self-pity is lonesome. When you’re unbalanced, the loudest voice you hear is your own. Not rocket science that The World vs. Poor Me dirge leaves us in a pretty sad minority.

I thought it’s time to spell out something I’ve wanted to for a long time now. Those who’ve been with me a while can finish my mantra, that I hate to take up anyone’s time. I’ve been busy writing on the questions we all ask, turning over rocks we might use for stepping stones, the songs we all have laughed or cried. But I never expected such deep healing joy and comfort from my readers, times the holistic journey became rough going this side of the blog. It is a wonder. The fragments in my head that struggle for light make themselves out to readers around the world who let me know in my bones that they get me, are in my corner. With my pen and notebook, and here, right here on this screen is one place I have found I belong. And I have felt such love and affection for you.

They will reveal the poetry and the pain of our humanity, sting your eyes with watery memories you wish were less clear, kill, steel your resolve, breathe life, take your breath away with their holy offering of beauty. They will, just words.

Insider Looking Out?

I got in a reader request today. She wanted to hear from the insiders. My questions for them:

So who of you grew up feeling you were an insider? Where or what group did you feel a part of? Was it by race or class? If not, was it tiring to maintain your status, stay “cool”? How deeply did this sense of belonging define you? Did you notice those who were outside or on the fringe? Did the easy belonging feed or diminish insecurity? Have you found yourself working harder to fit in anywhere over the years?

Having trouble disabling the likes. Be glad I don’t come to fix your computer or fridge.

I Would Gather All The Words

If I could I would gather all the words
from the wild, pick them like berries
    and press them into these pages to
    bleed them, beautiful, into my notebook

I would chase syllable streams that
refresh dry banks and stop. at the quarry
where I will cut confused hands on stone,
    going through the   ruins of my  
    dreams and I will bottle my cries to
    pour over the altar of my art

If I could I would answer the laughter
in the wind, unravel the rhetoric of the rain,
    and walking dirt and gravel transcribe
    the vernacular of city streets

I would record every note of joy from children
and undo the silence of grandmothers,
    ask them   about dogged hope

I would keep on west of my despair,
right through the dying sun and spell
    the sunrise as he lights land and sea
    in the genius of resurrection.

Seven Signs You’re a V.I.P. Blogger

1. You laugh and cry with people you’ve never met. And if anyone tells you they’re not real friends, you know which friend is on his way out.

2. You feel like a superhero. Not because you’re out at night saving the world but because you have this whole other identity, a life some friends have no idea you live.

3. You burn your third pot in a month, preoccupied with the new post bubbling in your head. No one can get too upset when you’re…inSpiRed.

4. You have not only given up on the dishes but quit stressing that they’re in full view of guests. No time, no pride, no shame.

5. “Sorry? I don’t follow” or “You follow?” isn’t something you can say in cyberspace anymore.

6. Your vibes with bloggers are in sync. Just when you’re thinking of a reader, a like from the dear soul comes whizzing through.

7. You’re reading this blog. (Reader’s suggestion on Ten Signs You’re a Real Blogger. I will say it again: I have the best readers!)

Do You Love Your Blog?

We make a thousand choices each day. What to wear, what to eat, how much, which errand to run first, how to get there, what to say. Ever notice how one simple decision ushers you into a world of unforeseen events, some that are life-changing? In the aftermath of the accident you think, “Why did I have to turn on that street today?” March 6th last year, I brought over to WordPress the handful of posts I had started loading on Tumblr. Little did I know. I would never be the same on the Holistic Journey after putting up that first post Lessons from my 30s.

For the love you’ve already shown me, I had wanted to celebrate AHJ’s birthday in quiet. But I decided to share some thoughts on blogging.

BIRTH PAINS
I wish I could whip out posts like cowboys with their pistols. I have asked a lot of myself here. Every post is a birth. I don’t write for your respect or like but feel I must bleed to earn it. Even if it’s just a paper cut. Has to be the masochistic Korean in me. Some posts I’ve spent months preparing. I have asked through many of them why in the world I was exacting a college paper from myself. I think, squint, think some more, hush the groaning in my brain. And after handing you the gift I prepared with love, I crash. Am physically drained after clicking publish.

WHY I SUFFER
How can I not? Why would I not give you my best? You fit my holistic journey into the countless choices you make in your week. The question of why it is we do what we do as bloggers came up in a conversation with a reader. I contemplated it and discovered my reason was curiously one that many men would have. Impact. You know how women are supposed to derive satisfaction most from relationships and men from a sense of significance? Obviously the goals are not mutually exclusive, and I’m not done talking about this community. But isn’t the angle many men and women approach people and work from interesting? I was able to distill my purpose in blogging to the extraordinary satisfaction of making an impact, in whatever way that happens. No real surprise, actually. Like many men, I’d rather have respect than love. Yeah, you can imagine how it pleases my husband to tap my soft side (reLiEf). I have written so that my words would land somewhere and do something. Otherwise I would’ve kept to a journal. I have written also because I couldn’t stop once I started. I’ve gone about the past year more inspired than I could handle. CPU overload. The floodgates had burst.
Gold
IT’S GOLD
Many say they blog because they like to socialize. The relationships that gave me new life have been an unexpected reward for what I’ve put into the writing. The connection with my readers is so magical I’d have to call it alchemy. There are more than words in this place. There’s a couch, with a box of Kleenex. It hit me recently that the couch was for me, too. It wasn’t just readers who walked away with food for thought. You have given me much to ponder, reconsider. I have a treasury of insight and wisdom under every post to revisit when I need to. Gold. You’ve made me a rich woman. Do you love your blog? I shamelessly confess I love mine because my readers have turned it into what it is and I love my readers. Why should you like it if I didn’t myself? While having fun sharing some old posts with Opinionated Man‘s crowd, I put out The Power of Unstoppable Love for you here. And you responded. You didn’t know how good it felt to be home.

I was speaking to all my readers, which means you, in my last post on his main blog this week. I wanted to save your read for today:

I don’t hear just the song and the band when I play an artist. I observe the inflections that say it’s Celine. I hear Josh Groban’s breath between the lines. And breath is something you more than hear. It’s something you feel.

I’ve noticed in the past year how up close blogging brings you. I mean this even of posts that do not divulge personal stories. It’s the nature of writing. The voice, inflections, color of your words reveal so much of how your mind works, who you are, where your heart is. I feel the writer’s breath, his laugh, her cry. I’ve seen how high your sky is, how deep your night. When I see a reader on my Stats burrow into my archive, I almost want to cover myself. Hug my chest. He’s digging to know me better. He lifts page after page of my mind. Her understanding of the things deeply important to me will grow clearer with each post. She hears my voice. All to say, I have really enjoyed my time with you. Thanks for caring to read – and as many of you have, for doing it so faithfully.

My final song on mike, Curtain Call, I dedicate to you. It goes like this. If the curtain were to close on you in some way and the post you’re working on turns out to be your last, would you be pleased with your content and presentation? Would you be glad you got to tell your story? Did you leave us something worthwhile? Even a good laugh is a saving reminder of the joy of lightness. Make your posts meaningful or fun for yourself so that it’ll be meaningful and fun to us. Are you inspired, excited by your art or photography? Then you can hope we will be. Make the most of the time and attention on you, and the endless potential for connections from your post.

If we were each writing in our own cubicle with no way to visit one another – bring a cup of coffee – we know blogging would be a whole other experience. Pen name or no, you want to be known. Want to know you matter. So you splay your heart, asking us to feel its pulse. Make your posts matter, then. My readers don’t stop by my cubby with feedback on my posts. I’ve cleared the walls and we sink in the couch, our circle, with lots of pen and paper and the light in our eyes. While blogging has threatened to detract from the duties of living, my writing through this beautiful intimacy has been my living. My breath.

I’ve given you myself. I hope it was enough.

What If You Weren’t Afraid?

Fear dictates a lot of what we do, say, and don’t. Over the years, my husband and I have peeled back the face of harsh words, avoidance, and everything in between to lay bare this tyrant in the heart. The things I want from him will often lead back to my fear of finding myself out in the cold with hat in hand. In those moments I’m the little girl her parents let down, even while I now understand that they had done their best. Holistic Husband will hesitate to share with me what he really thinks, afraid of rejection. I am short with my boy for shedding clothes outside because I am afraid he will get sick. Not a 100 pounds, I could not relate to anyone with eating disorders. Until a few years ago when I showed myself I could overeat. I knew better. I was the health and nutrition consultant among moms, with over a decade of study under her belt. The worst thing you can do with your food is do too much of it. I realized something wild. Though my husband spared no expensive to meet our needs, the compulsive eating started from fear of going hungry.

There are many things we hold back from trying, scared to fail. We worry about what others will think and end up spouting dumb words or holding back when we should speak up. The wind of peer pressure blows on our kids everyday, right through the morning window when they decide what to wear before pushing them toward and away from other kids.

How would these things look different in your life, if you were not afraid?

Your relationship with your sweetheart
How you parent
The people you tend to befriend
The relational boundaries you draw
How passive or aggressive you are in conflict
How often you say no
How and why you study
What you would say in a job interview
Where you work
How you work, the hours you put in
Your relationship with your self, in exercise or ways you nurture your body and spirit
Your eating
Your career
Your blogging
Your art
Your dance
How and what you write
What you buy
The goals you set
Add your own.

Feel free to think before getting back to me.

Guest Post – Five Mistakes I Made as a New Blogger

Holistic Wayfarer:

Of course I’d share these with you. Hope they’re helpful!

~HW

Originally posted on HarsH ReaLiTy:

I’m still relatively new out here but I was your poster blogger for clueless newbies a year ago. I wasn’t familiar with blogs; it was a friend who introduced me to WordPress. Once he sat me in my dash and taught me how to pilot the thing, I just wrote like I was drunk. Well, writing is one thing but getting it out there another. These are some things I wish I’d known in the cyberworld fresh off the ship from Earth.

1. Don’t wait last-minute to come up with a good title. After putting in all that thought and time into the post, I would scrounge for a good title just before publishing. There were times I didn’t do justice to the text just because I hadn’t prepared. I’ve since learned: good title, good views. It’s our first – and possibly last – shot at inviting a reader in. It…

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Guest Post – Sex in the City

Holistic Wayfarer:

My turn to guest author. Perverts, crime, cutting school. Come see what the early part of my wayfaring was like in New York.

~HW

Originally posted on HarsH ReaLiTy:

I agree New York City is a great place to visit. But I could no longer live there or think about raising my son where I grew up. Even as young as five or six into the elementary years, I was on guard against flashers. The police went on the hunt one time, had a WANTED sketch out of the guy. His face, not the part he was flashing. So no, my childhood was not very innocent. Halloween brought the most nerve-wracking seven minutes of every year in Junior High. My friends and I braced ourselves on the bus as we pulled up in the afternoon. Sometimes we’d see the older kids waiting, raw eggs or Nair hair remover in hand. You know we ran home. I was about fourteen, home with my younger brother one day when someone tried our doorknob. Through the peephole I saw a Hispanic man…

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Guest Post – Make Him Feel Like a Man

Holistic Wayfarer:

Have we forgotten how to be men, how to be women? My two cents.

Originally posted on HarsH ReaLiTy:

You wait for him to text or email. You distract yourself with TV and Facebook. You wait. And wait. Oh, forget this.

You text him.

You suggest meeting up. “Uh, I’m not sure about that weekend. I might be out with the guys that Saturday,” he answers. No problem. You’re free Sunday. Or how about Tuesday after work?

Ladies, that is the problem. You are free. Free, when he’d rather you cost him something.

Men want a distance to have to travel to reach us. On wheels or across cyberspace through words he shoots you in hope. It’s the dream of being a knight, vaguely but deeply printed in their gene code. Lady Catarina didn’t rap on Sir Beef Biceps’ door to pick him up on horseback. And it’s not just physical distance I’m talking about. If you throw up all over the poor guy your deepest longings, give away…

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My Misfit Brain

One sunny afternoon I went to a family and friends’ celebration, and I wanted the earth to swallow me whole. I’d that very week been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety; nobody there knew. Those at the gathering were celebrating religious and political beliefs that were virtually opposite to my markedly less conservative views. I was invited as a relative, and never knew if they really thought I shared their views or if it just didn’t matter. There was a lot of Bible reading, text interpreted to support favorite right-wing politicians. Many emotional speeches on the rightness and beauty of the group’s beliefs also implied that divergent views were stupid, evil or both. I wished I could disappear.

Mental health problems are inconvenient, messy, embarrassing. Incompatible philosophies and tastes, maybe even political or religious views, are sometimes socially acceptable as matters of personal leanings. But being exceedingly depressed or anxious? Lots of people would rather avoid or deny such things, and wish that mental-health patients, even functional ones like me, would keep quiet about it and get over ourselves.

Instead, I got help. I’m very lucky. I have terrific supporters, good doctors and meds. I’ve also recognized that I was already on the fringe before feeling so excluded at that long-ago party; that week’s personal crisis merely magnified it.

Feeling like such a misfit at the party simply exaggerated the real reasons I was miserable: severe depression and anxiety. Apparently I don’t have the balanced body chemistry that lets most people cope rather casually with everyday life. I think that every car on the road is about to crash into me; I have panic attacks in utterly benign situations; I believe everyone around me will reject me if they find out I’m so broken. My logic argues with my anxiety that this is all absolutely ridiculous, yet doesn’t always win.

The support and treatment have been great. I’m not ‘cured’ of being different this way, but for the most part I manage fine. Still, there will always be another odd-one-out party, another trial that seems gigantic though logic reminds me that being odd or upset is inconsequential.

What saved the day for me was to join the children. I discovered a wonderful kind of grace there: the littlest kids don’t care who believes what or who seems left out. While the adults bonded over joys I could never share, I wanted to escape to the car to nurse the emotional paralysis of my terrors in private. Instead, I slipped out to the front porch and sat on the swing in the safer company of kids, and we chattered aimlessly about how much cake and ice cream we all planned to eat. They didn’t care whether I seemed normal or grown-up, or not. Next party, I’ll be heading straight for the porch.

Kathryn at Art-Colored Glasses