Write it–If a Picture is Worth a 1,000 Words

Today, I’m going to allow you to do the writing. Use the picture below as a prompt for a 1,000 word essay or short story. And if you post the story online, please send the link.

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Glittering Guns–Violence & Adrenaline High in the US

DSCN2331During late September of 1986, I arrived at a theater class in Saint Catharines, Ontario. I wore a fringe leather jacket and ripped Levis. Since I had boarded the wrong bus, I arrived a half-hour late for class. I felt self-conscious arriving at my first class in a foreign country where I didn’t know anyone. And the first thing the students said after the professor announced that I was an American exchange student was, “Where is your gun?”

True enough, the US has had (as long as I’ve been alive) an obsession with guns and violence. And the Canadian students who questioned me preferred watching the news out of Buffalo, New York as opposed to Toronto because it was more exciting with the latest shooting or other crimes south of the border. I just felt embarrassed by the violence in the news and I avoided watching the news from either country.

Fast forward to the summer of 1991 when I was in London hanging out with musicians in a club. Again, the topic of American guns and violence came up with the Londoners grilling me about the topic. They asked if all Americans had guns when they knew well that we did not all have guns. And many English people preferred American TV shows (cops and criminals) to their own television shows.

I remember going to a jam session in London where the two musicians watched episodes of Starsky and Hutch while I sat in the background trying to write a melody to a song they gave me on tape. True, I had grown up watching cop shows but by the time I was performing music, I had stopped watching violent shows because I had lost interests in them in favor of spiritual pursuits.

And today, as another tragedy involving guns appears in the US media (with replays to induce adrenaline rushes in viewers), I question why more Americans aren’t researching post-trauma and how this condition is the cause root of violent crimes, addictions, etc along with the poisons we call food, the electric magnetic energy we expose ourselves to constantly, heavy metals in vaccines, and so on.

And the answer that comes to me is that violence in the news sells too. It sells big pharma drugs; it sells insurance. It sells products to make us feel numb or high so we don’t have to face the real demon which is our own shadow. People say they want peace and then they sit in front of a computer or TV set absorbing the violence in the media. They either numb or pump up their energy with the substance of their choice while few people are dealing with their triggers for post-trauma. And don’t we all suffer from this condition by now? Why aren’t we taking PTSD more seriously?

Because if we did take it more seriously, we would not send more soldiers to war. We would banish violence from movies and TV shows. We would research the real effects of GMO foods, air pollution, electromagnetic energy, and come clean with experiments done on the human race by HAARP, Monsanto, big pharma, etc…We’re smart enough to do this but where is the will to come clean? When will we dig our heads out of denial and admit that our hearts have been shattered and require mending?

I tell you now it doesn’t matter how many yoga poses you learn at a retreat or the number of hours you find yourself in meditation. You can sing mantras for weeks on end and say your affirmations in front of a mirror each morning, but until we deal with the trauma that lies at the root of each of us and as a collective, we will not experience world peace–I guarantee it.

I thought I only needed to take a spiritual approach to everything and ascend over this madness in the world until I realized that I’m part of the madness. We all are. It is our egos that separates us from the perpetuators of crimes and yet these so-called criminals are projections of our own darkness even if we’re not the ones who pulled the trigger or ignited the bomb. We still played a part in our denial, our silence, and our inability to question the media, Hollywood, big pharma and every other component in our convenient lives that poison the well of humanity. And this includes our choice of words and communication styles with the people we’re supposed to love.

We can label people criminals and toss shame their way. We can toss people into prison or send them to the electric chair and that won’t heal the violence in the world. In fact, it will only perpetuate this morphogenetic field that is filled with genocide and other atrocities of our ancestors that is in each of your DNA. None of us gets off the hook. None of us are saints. And even the saints had dark ancestors if you know what I mean.

I’m not going to sit in front of a television set and trigger trauma. I refuse to watch violent images on constant replay nor will I tune into those videos on YouTube. I simply don’t want to see it. And I’m not going to punish myself with violent images. I don’t get high on that sort of thing even if others, less conscious do.

For my own country, I recommend free therapy for every individual living in the US that focuses on healing trauma in whatever form it shows up. I recommend more funding go towards neurological and brain research, including alternative modalities that heal neuropathways in the brain. I recommend ending all wars today and to stop sending people to countries to protect poppy fields (heroin) or oil or other addictive substances. And I recommend we get real with ourselves and each other and stop pretending like we don’t know what’s going on.

I’ve spoken with people on the bus from various walks of life and from various educational backgrounds (people with little education to people with post-doctorate degrees), and people know what’s going on in the world. But all this talk isn’t solving the problem even if some bonding occurs, even from the heart to heart.

So, today, I want you to take a deep breath and get centered. Then ask yourself how you contribute to both violence and peace on the planet. Then come up with a next step to heal your part of it. I’ll do the same. Thank you.

Excerpt from Enter 5-D

I wrote Enter 5-D as an urban fantasy but it also fits into commercial and general fiction.

cropped-dscn3701.jpgChapter Five

Across Seattle, Eurydice scrambled down the cobblestone alleyway to the mouth of the Oracle grotto. When she reached the theater entrance, she stood under the marquee and waited for the jay to appear. Soon she heard a fluttering of wings in the background and then the bird landed in front of her on his perch.

“Oh, it’s you. Where have you been keeping yourself these days?”

Eurydice pushed back her hair from her face and wiped perspiration from her forehead. “You know well where I’ve been because you’re the one who revealed my future to me. Remember you said that I would make a sacrifice but not to worry?”

“I said that?”

Eurydice nodded.

“Oh, yes, you’re the one who sang in the opera house. I heard the news. What a shame that the great opera house will be empty these days. What was the governor thinking?”

“That’s a good question for you to answer.”

“So now, you’re out of work and your life has fallen completely apart, am I correct?”

Eurydice nodded.

“For a singer, you’re a woman with little words.”

“What do you want me to say?”

“Let’s talk about your dreams. There’s a man in your dreams who wants to help you. But if you keep ignoring him then he’s not much help, is he?”

“I’m not ignoring him. He comes and goes.”

“This is the way of Orpheus.”

“Who’s Orpheus?”

The jay lit from his perch and flew in three circles and then landed back on the perch pushing back the crown on his head with his foot. “My dear, Orpheus is the son of a muse and probably was the greatest musician Seattle ever had.”

“What do you mean by ever had?”

“He’s no longer with us.”

“He died? This man that’s supposed to help me is dead?”

“Not exactly–he ascended to another dimension.”

Eurydice found a wood and iron bench and plopped down on it. “You’ll have to explain that one. Talking to you is exhausting. Don’t you believe in linear communication?”

The jay shook his head. “Talk to Persephone and Demeter about the dimensions. Or you could find your answers underground.”

Just as the jay delivered his last word, he vaporized leaving Eurydice gasping with astonishment and exasperation. Her mind seemed more confused now as it did before consulting with the crazy jay.

Meanwhile, Demeter and Persephone rifled through Eurydice drawers and papers on her desk looking for a suicide note or some kind of sign.

Demeter grimaced. “Why is my intuition failing me now?”

Persephone pushed aside clothing that had piled up on Eurydice’s couch and she took a seat. She rubbed her temples and placed her hand on her heart and then she closed her eyes.

“She’s not dead. And in fact, she’s on her way home so we had better clean up this mess or we’ll have explaining to do.”

Demeter picked up the empty bottle of pills resting on the counter and she read the label. She pointed at the bottle.

“My mind is also playing tricks on me. This is allergy medicine and Eurydice probably was rifling through her purse looking for any remaining pills. Looking at the date on the bottle, she would have run out by now.”

Persephone sighed with relief. “We had better clean this mess. How are we going to explain our actions to Eurydice?”

Just as she mentioned Eurydice name, the women heard the key turning in the door and then Eurydice entered her cottage. She gawked when she saw her friends standing in a pile of her clothing and papers scattered on the wood floors she had polished earlier.
Demeter began picking up the papers and placing them in a neat pile on the kitchen table while Persephone folded the clothes on the couch. Demeter chuckled with embarrassment.

“We have some explaining to do.

Eurydice nodded, chuckling. “Go on…”

We caught wind of Pluto’s latest law and rushed to your cottage to warn you. We noticed the empty bottle of pills next to your purse on the floor and we jumped to conclusions.”

“You thought I overdosed on allergy pills and then disappeared?”

The women nodded in unison.

Eurydice cleared papers from the floor and couch, and then she sat on the couch next to Persephone.

“Wow, am I coming off as desperate?”

Persephone caressed Eurydice’s shoulder. “It’s not so much that, but we read of other musicians committing suicide thanks to Pluto’s new laws.”

“And you thought that I would take my own life?”

Demeter grabbed a wicker chair and sat across from the other women. She nodded. “I guess we were thinking that if we were in your shoes, we would probably consider such an act.”

Eurydice chuckled. “I can see it now dramatic diva takes her life to avenge Pluto’s draconian laws. The newspaper would love that.”

Demeter picked up a stray piece of paper and read the contents. She realized it was the deed for the cottage. She picked up another paper announcing the final mortgage payment.

“Eurydice, you didn’t tell us that you had only one payment left on your mortgage.”

Eurydice shrugged. “What’s to celebrate now? According to Pluto’s new law, which I did read about in the newspaper today, I have three months to vacate my home.”

Demeter sighed. “This is unfair. What did musicians do that caused Pluto to bring out his iron fist?”

“We took attention away from him and you know better than anyone else that the man is a megalomaniac.”

**

Meanwhile, on his way to the Underground, Marcus got a sense that someone was tailing him, but when he looked behind and around himself, the streets appeared empty except for a stray kid passing by on a bicycle.

In any case, he picked up his pace and headed to the main entrance to what was formerly known as Pioneer Square and now went by the name Styx Center. From the corner of his eye, he saw a whirl of something feminine. Next thing he knew Pandora strode towards him–her jade eyes sparkling with curiosity. When she caught up with Marcus she grabbed his left wrist.

She teased Marcus, “Where do you think you’re going Mister Plutocrat?”

Marcus feigned ignorance even though he stood only ten feet away from the entrance to Hades. “I was exploring this area of town. Do you know where this door leads?”

Pandora smirked. “I know where you’ve been. Olav is a good friend of mine and I’ve done some work for him. Woodworkers and locksmiths are like pardon the cliché, peas in a pod.”

Marcus blushed and he struggled to find his voice now caught in his throat. Pandora looked him up and down until her probing eyes landed on his face.

“What are you going to do if Pluto catches up with you? And you do know about his prison on San Juan Island, right?”

“At least there’s no death penalty.”

“That’s the point because from what I’ve heard, the prisoners pray for death as they languish in that surreal place.”

“I know what I’m doing. It’s true that my colleagues suspect something’s wrong with me, but I’ve managed to allude them.”

“Really–and you’ve alluded Pluto’s hidden cameras too?”

“What hidden cameras?”

“You think Pluto doesn’t keep his eyes on his employees? If I were you I would censor your phone calls by using code words and take a different route each time you venture to the Underground and that sort of thing. You need to be sneakier than Pluto or he’ll catch you.”

Marcus shuddered and hesitated. Then his hand reached for the handle of the door. He glanced at Pandora over his shoulder as she stood a few feet away with her arms crossed defiantly across her ample bosom.

“Good luck, Marcus.”

Marcus swung the door open and squeezed inside the damp entrance before changing his mind. As he descended the stairs, his feet sunk into the moss. He pulled out a flashlight. When he turned it on, he noticed a camera swiveling above his head.

“Oh, darn! Look, you’re on Pluto’s Candid Camera.”=

Moments later, he heard the door open behind him and two pairs of booted feet land heavily on the stairs and flashlights arcing towards him. The next thing he knew, someone had grabbed both of his hands and placed them in handcuffs.

“So Marcus, how’s the weather in the Underground?”

The two men dragged Marcus up the stairs and out into the sparkling sunlight.

**

Meanwhile, Pandora strode on Fifth Avenue towards the old Public Market. Moments later, she negotiated the cobblestone alleyway in her wedged sandals. She approached the grotto and waited for the jay to appear. It seemed like the eternity until the bird arrived so Pandora took a seat on the wood and iron bench in the meantime.

Suddenly, Pandora heard a fluttering of wings coming from behind her. The Oracle flew above her head and landed on his perch. With one foot, he fluffed his crown.

Pandora smirked. “So, you finally showed up.”

The jay ruffled his feathers and began preening them. Pandora waited for the bird to speak but instead sat through the bird’s morning grooming routine. Finally, the bird’s shiny eyes gazed at Pandora’s face.

“Ah Pandora, what can I do for you?”

“I’ve been waiting so long I’ve almost forgotten my questions for you.”

“Even if you had forgotten, don’t you think I would know?”

 

Essay for Woman Sleeping in an Attic

DSCN9920Procrastination is not my friend. Yet, the only work I have done on my second memoir that reflects on living in between homes (several times), comes out as essays. So, why not just write a series of blog essays and then transform them into a book later? 

And lately, memories of the first time I left Bellingham during the summer of 1986 mingles with the second time I left Bellingham three weeks ago. The first time, I left I felt hopeful as I packed up my Datsun and headed to Seattle to break into the music business. The second time, I loaded up a U-Haul truck and I only felt dread as I hauled my meager belongings to a storage unit just outside of Port Townsend. And then settled into my family’s home (not in Port Townsend).

When I was 22-years-old, I considered myself hopeful but still one of the walking wounded latch-key kids trying to make sense of my life. I had my entire life to map out and I mapped it out. I had plans for every area of my life and I had a schedule to keep. When I was in my twenties, I paid no attention to people over 30 and I certainly never expected to reach my menopause years or my fifties.

Like every young adult pursuing a career in the arts, I expected to live in a bohemian-style for several years until I got my big break. Only the bohemian lifestyle continued without the big break and the older I got I just seemed like a loser. I did not achieve what I expected to achieve. I did not marry or live in a formidable home. In fact, many times I found myself without a home at all.

I didn’t do everything right but I also didn’t do anything truly wrong. I made some bad choices, but I never took up the worst kind of habits. And yet, who was I to think that I wasn’t as wounded or dysfunctional as the alcoholics and addicts living down the hall from me in Seattle’s apartment buildings? The good news for the addict is that they get help a lot earlier as their addictions humbled them. While I stayed longer in denial and even acted smugly towards addicts or people suffering from mental illnesses.

And as many addicts I knew got their lives together and experienced redemption, my life kept spiraling downward despite the number of spiritual workshops I took or self-help books I absorbed into my subconscious mind. I experienced many ah-hah moments but I never experienced salvation. I had many people warn me about my defences but my ego shut them out. I thought despite the outward signs of my life crumbling into oblivion that I had it together or I would at least fake it until I made it.

So, as our U-Haul truck made its way to a storage unit in the middle of a cow pasture, I wondered with despair how I ended up in this transition. And my eyes opened wider when I met women from my childhood also going through transition. And then on FaceBook, a few of my friends also find themselves relocating to other parts of the country, getting divorced, or going through a complete overhaul of their lives.

And the Marvin Gaye’s words, “What’s Going On” swim in my thoughts as do water moccasins swim through the flood waters in the southern United States. And the land shifts in Mexico and enormous winds and rain plummel the Caribbean islands. Indeed, I ask why are their so many displaced people? And I think for many, this represents a humbling experience that breaks open our hearts.

In one of my channel sessions, my guides told me that at this time the weak are made strong and the strong are made weak. We are here to learn from each other. Those who suffered before us learned survival skills and now share those with us. We will emerge from coping to thriving. And my wish for everyone is to survive the transition that will lead us to the promised land.

 

The Practice–Writing During a Life Transition

DSCN1073Often, when I’m undergoing monumental changes in my life, the last thing I want to do is write. I feel as if the words lodged themselves behind a dam and I’m unable to interpret my emotions as I endure changes. Or I believe that no one wants to hear about the suffering I’m enduring or the play-by-play workings of my day.

However, this is the perfect time to write. This is where we find our creative spirit in raw materials. We can turn our experiences into gold by writing poems, essays, or blog posts such as this one. And maybe these words act as a balm for someone on the other side of the city or the world enduring similar circumstances.

I wrote most of my novels and screenplays during harsher times in my life. I wrote the original screenplay for Agnes and Yves when I was suffering from multiple chemical sensitivities. I did not have any furniture so I propped my word processer on pillows and wrote the screenplay from bed. When I completed Enter 5-D I was living in between homes (basically, homeless).

Here are tips for turning life experiences into gold on a page:

  • Get gritty during the rough draft. Allow emotions to erupt and pour out on the page. Stop and pound your fists into a pillow and scream if this helps with the process but get it all out.
  • Research other people’s stories of similar situations
  • Join a support group or a writing group that focuses on life stories
  • Journal and share your entries with a coach or therapist
  • Write every day even if it is just in a journal and even if it’s just one paragraph
  • Don’t censor yourself (based on how you should feel or act)
  • Let it rip
  • Tear the pages up if you must then clear the room with sage
  • Name your emotions and then befriend them

You might transform your blog posts or journal entries into a memoir, if you feel that it adds value to the world. But mostly, we use our writing efforts for catharsis as we make sense of events that visit us.

I offer creativity coaching using astrology, cards, and other types of divination. Sign up at Whole Astrology.

Write It–Memoir: Revenge versus Telling a Higher Truth

Queen Anne tub, 1995
Photo from 1995: Taken by Liz Herlevi

I never thought I would write a memoir. For the most part, I find reading memoirs tedious as writers tend to include too many details and tell their story in a linear way. Many memoirists also seem to have barbs attached to their pens.

The reason why Eat, Pray, Love enjoyed success wasn’t because Liz Gilbert struck out to get revenge on her former husband or the lifestyle she was supposed to embrace. The memoir received worldwide attention because the author stripped herself bare while allowing raw, yet universal emotions to splatter on to the pages of her book. Gilbert also chose a non-linear structure for her memoir, even though her travelogue traveled from Italy, then India, and finally, Bali. Gilbert also tells her story in a self-effacing, humorous, and relatable voice–at least familiar to middle-class American women of a certain age.

But when I was wading through manuscripts on the defunct Authonomy website years ago, most of the memorists made several mistakes in my opinion. They used too many passive verbs, they regurgitated their lifestory instead of focusing on a slice of life, and they chose macabre topics without providing some brighter moments or comic relief. Some authors would have been better off hiring a ghost writer since their writing skills were rudimentary or told in a second language. And yet, an author learns a lot by critiquing other people’s work while also reading the top memoirs on the charts.

The main question for me revolves around baring one’s soul. How many sensitive topics or secrets do I reveal in my work? And am I revealing these secrets to tell a universal story or am I seeking revenge on a subconscious level? It helps to spend time in therapy while writing material with suffering rooted in childhood situations, as is the case with my memoir, Woman Sleeping on a Couch. And the good news is that the writing process proved cathartic and I did bring up these deeper issues during therapy sessions. But I still ask myself if my story is universal or just too painful to share with others?

Determine whether or not you’re shooting from the hip or if sharing your story has the power to heal others.

  • Will telling your story divide a family or cause a rift with relatives?
  • Will your story withstand the scrutiny of critics (both professional and personal)?
  • Can you write your story in an entertaining manner where you laugh at yourself and reveal your vulnerabilities (shadows and projections)?
  • Do you take responsibility for your end of the story or act like a victim?
  • Do you discern the difference between events that serve the story and events that serve the ego?
  • Will telling your story land you in legal hot water or liberate you?
  • Does your story share an arc with fiction? Do you have a strong beginning, middle and resolution or is your story open-ended?

Writing memoirs rubs the conscious raw. Writing memoirs strips the soul bare. And not everyone wants to read about people’s personal history unless it strikes a common thread. And the most popular memoirs revolve around travel, food, love/romance, and animals. If you take a more universal approach by anchoring your story in one of those themes, you have a greater chance of hitting the literary jackpot.

My sister and I used to have a conversation where she believed that everyone has an interesting story to tell. But face it, not everyone is a storyteller. And while it’s enjoyable to sit with friends, colleauges, and family members as they spin nostalgic and revealing yarns, a memoir stretches those yarns to 300 pages, which causes some yarns to snap and break.

However, if a story has a strong beginning, middle, and end with an overarching universal theme, then it is worth telling. Just be willing to rewite the “truth” through several drafts. And then depending on the material in the story, muster the courage to weather any storms that come from secrets and situations contained in the memoir. Once we let the worms out of the can, it’s too late to put a lid on it.

I’m an author and astrologer who provides coaching for creative professionals. Go to Whole Astrology to sign up for a session.