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The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

Live Your Great Story

Skyheart

 

We are all repositories for experience. Nothing that happens in our lives ever goes away. While we may repress memories that could be too painful to recall, they remain in our cells. What if, instead, we decided to live our stories in healthy, productive and celebratory ways?

Leaving New Orleans tonight after a few days here with friends. I had been excitedly planning this trip for more than a month, but really, for years, since I had decided that I wanted to go to Jazz Fest. Circumstances had stood in the way before, but more recently, the stars aligned to make it possible and I’m so glad it did. As I have long believed, the trip began the moment I committed to going; not when I packed, got in my car, drove to the airport, hopped on two different planes or even arrived here. Those were just the paragraphs in the chapters that I co-wrote with the characters I encountered. Along the way, I met friendly people- from the folks in TSA who checked me through, to the people at the ticket counter, to the flight attendants and pilots, to the woman who was traveling with her therapy cat, to the retired mother and her adult son with whom I had a lengthy conversation about family, health and spirituality, to my friends Jewelee and Scott who greeted me when I arrived. Scott was actually on my flight, but I didn’t know it. Celebrating life these past few days with Loreen, Ron, Virginia, Chris, Karen, Vanessa and Sophia have enriched my time immeasurably. Dancing, singing, walking, eating, laughing, hugging, absorbing all of the juicy energy in this vibrant city are life changing experiences.

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Danced my tush off yesterday at Jazz Fest, as I basked in the sun; despite wearing sunscreen, got a little cooked around the edges, enjoyed vegetarian red beans and rice, and yes, indulged in a beignet. It reminded me of a puffed up version of a Pennsylvania decadent treat called Funnel Cake which is essentially fried dough doused with powdered sugar.

Second day of noticing sky writing as I gazed up into the vast blue expanse. It acted as a seal to my experience.

Loreen showed me a card she had gotten that had a photo with the words ‘Live A Great Story’ painted on it. What choice do we have but to do that? We express it in all we do. The flow of emotion, whether joy or sorrow, resentment or forgiveness, petty pouting, I’m not gettin’ my way frustration, love and acceptance, compassion and understanding, anger and aggression, or even passive aggression since we think we don’t know how to get our needs met any other way, are all part of this being human. It is when we consciously choose how our story gets played out, that we thrive. When we believe we are victims of someone else’s design, then we suffer. When we take pen in hand and write the poetry and prose from each sun-up to sun down, we have a story worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.

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Seduced By A City

Landed in New Orleans yesterday, a.k.a. The Crescent City and The Big Easy. I had been planning the trip for the past month to spend time with my friend Jewelee and her husband Scott, their kiddos, and her family of choice, Virginia, Chris, Karen, Loreen and Ron; who know this place like the backs of their hands. They were my tour guides, pointing out all kinds of interesting factoids and drawing my attention to stuff I might have otherwise missed, since I felt like a kid in a candy store. Drinking it all in; the people dressed in outrageous garb, the Mardi Gras beads tossed over electrical wires and trees, the enticing aromas wafting from restaurant and café doors.

I  had never been to Jazz Fest, so that was a draw as well. Eager to hear concerts tomorrow and Friday. Today, I found myself strolling through streets strangely familiar, even though I have never set foot on the sidewalks lined with French and Spanish architecture, gas lights and music resonating from bars and on street corners. More tarot card readers per square inch in Jackson Square, as we meandered through. Sky writer designing imagery across the puffy cloud cerulean expanse. The letters spelled out the words-  love, pray, respect, coexist and honor. Was dancin’ in the streets at a block party, and found a colorful parasol sold by a woman who told us that it was formed from recycled bicycle spokes and rainbow hued fabric with mirrors embedded it. On a porch sat a man who was celebrating his 91st birthday. The daughters of my friends Jewelee and Scott and Virginia adeptly spun hula hoops around their waists, in ways that I can recall doing when I was young. I marveled at their energy and ability to keep them going. These days, I can manage a few spins around, before it falls to the ground. Way to go, Vanessa and Sophia! When I asked her about her favorite part of the day, 8 year Vanessa said that it was riding on the street car that would most remain with her since she had never done it before. Although I have been on one, somehow knowing that I was in a most magical place made it that much more fun. Feeling the breeze on my face as it buzzed past ancient trees and more modern buildings. Since it was not at the height of tourist season, nor at night, the streets were less crowded than I imagined, but could still imagine the revelry that goes on during Mardi Gras.

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One of my favorite books, called Jitterbug Perfume written by Tom Robbins was situated in Seattle, Paris and New Orleans, so I could visualize the places about which he wrote.

Even though I am on vacay, I managed to find healthy food options in the home of fried nearly everything. Kale salad yesterday for dinner, green smoothie for lunch today and avocado, shrimp and crab salad for dinner tonight. Walked 12,424 steps according to the pedometer in my phone. No wonder I am feeling a bit wiped at the moment.

To be in NOLA is to be seduced by the city itself.  It is a full sensory experience, with so much to taste, touch, smell, hear and feel on this warm mid spring day. The people seem friendly and welcoming. The music ranges from Blues and Jazz to Cajun, Creole and Zydeco. Irresistible to this country girl who can’t help but shake it to the tones emanating from all sorts of instruments and voices in a place that oozes charm and beckons with finger crooked in allurement.

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Creative ADHD

While on the plane heading from Philadelphia to New Orleans for my first ever visit to attend Jazz Fest with friends, I was perusing the in flight mag called American Way- since my carrier is American Airlines. Being a writer, editor and former publisher, I always read the Editor’s Note to see what’s what in the rest of the publication. This one grabbed me instantly because the human subject was is one of my favorite songwriters- Neil Young. The journalist, Adam Pitluck was sharing an experience he had while listening to erstwhile rather raunchy radio host Howard Stern. Howard’s guest was the iconic Mr. Young.  Howard asked a natural question about his songwriting process.

“Do you spend hours a day sitting in a room alone somewhere waiting for inspiration? When Neil Young is creating, how does it happen?”

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The response that had me nodding my head in agreement was ” Whatever I’m doing, if I have an idea, I stop what I’m doing and I do that.”

Call it creative ADHD if you like, but it works for me. If my attention is lured away by The Muse, I need to heed the call, or the ideas sometimes slip into oblivion.  If I am somewhere sans computer, I jot down the thought on whatever paper is handy. I have been known to use napkins, paper bags, my iPhone or appointment book. When inspiration strikes, who am I to shoo it away?

As I am writing this, I am standing at a charging station at the Charlotte, NC airport waiting for the next flight. This writer’s life is exceptional. Here I am, doing what I love, writing slice of life stories for my pleasure and hopefully yours. I am taking you along the journey with me and you didn’t need to pack a bag, buy a ticket or leave the comfort of home. We creative souls are blessed to be the ‘hollow reeds’ through which insights flow.

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When I travel, I prepare well so that I can be spontaneous if the need arises. I smile at and have conversations with cool people. This flight from Philly to Charlotte was short and I combined power napping and being to read a newly published book written by my friends Mali Apple and Joe Dunn, called The Soulmate Lover. I immersed myself in all kinds of juicy imaginings as I call in the Beloved who I know will show up from wherever he is at the moment.

Case in point …as I was writing those last few words, my attention was drawn by a large, fluffy four legged named Vinny. His person, Jackie informed me that he was a therapy cat who works with children on the autism spectrum and older adults. How could I miss this opportunity to have a conversation with the two of them?   She asked me if I knew the music of Marcia Ball. I do. Not sure if she will be at Jazz Fest. Vinny posed prettily for a photo and then sauntered into his cozy carrier and Jackie and I hugged goodbye.

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vinnycatandjackie

I am eager to see what writing prompts pop up throughout the week as I pay attention to the creative sparks that dance before me.

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Pump Up The Volume

Having just returned from a workshop called Fearless Relating, facilitated by my friends Reid Mihalko and Monique Darling, I am awhirl with all kinds of ideas and awash in emotion. In the re-entry process, I am integrating what feels like a lifetime of experience. If you have ever been to an immersive retreat, then you know what I’m talking about. I entered into it with the intention to clean up the symbolic cobwebs that have been lurking in corners and under beds for, oh, just like forever. Knowing that I am prone to wearing my therapist’s hat- an occupational hazard, since I have been doing counseling in one form or another since 1979, I made it clear from the get go, that I was off duty and that I was there for my own healing.

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Be careful what you ask for. In very short order, I was called on to face a longstanding issue- emotional expression and especially the one called anger. In my family, it was rarely shown, voices were not often raised, although I recall my father saying “That burns me up,” with regard to work related issues in particular, while swigging Maalox. On the flip side, we were encouraged to be happy, loving and in gratitude mode. All good on the surface.  I held back expressing sadness often, since my father used to say “What hurts you, hurts me.” Now, some would find that a compassionate, empathetic statement of support. I internalized it, even at an early age to mean that if I felt sad, daddy would feel sad and I didn’t want to be responsible for that. I became a good little co-dependent, believing that it was my job to take care of the emotional wellbeing of people in my life. Any surprise that I became a social worker/therapist/minister/teacher/writer/radio host whose work is all about relationships? I would also hear him say “If that’s the worst thing that ever happens to you, you’ll be alright,” as a means of encouraging resilience. Again, it could be interpreted in different ways. My parents modeled resilience and while it couldn’t be called stoicism, it was  certainly emotional control.

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What became abundantly clear through the course of the weekend was that anger comes out when I witness injustice; someone being harmed, or people deliberately causing damage of some kind. It is like I am feeling FOR them …righteous indignation, a sense of  “How dare you?” I can feel my hackles being raised and I’m like a protective Mama bear, charging to the rescue of her cubs. A friend who was there had asked me how I deal with my own toes being stepped on, or boundaries being crossed. I generally don’t get angry then; sometimes frustrated, but then I step back and clarify my needs with that person. It somehow feels like a ‘waste of emotion’ to get angry, like ‘what good is it going to do?’ He pointed out that it needs to be verbalized but not sustained. Kind of like a little kid who falls down, skins her knee, cries over the boo boo, gets it patched up and then is back on the playground. What we resist, persists; I know that well.

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Reid used two powerful analogies that really resonated with me, around the theme of stored emotion. The first was a pile of newspapers that we allow to accumulate and we think that if we attempt to burn them, they will become a raging conflagration. The other is a closet filled with golf balls. If we open the door, we are afraid they will come crashing down around us. The trick is to be aware of them in the first place and be willing to face them as they arise so that they don’t overwhelm us . I am learning to do that after all these years.

In one of the exercises, we worked with a partner and non-verbally shared an emotion and the other person was to tell us what they thought we were feeling. As I exhibited anger, I noticed that I was squeezing my fists in the way I would if I was having lab work done and the syringe was approaching my arm, ready to draw blood. Sometimes I do need to work myself up to even feel the emotion that has seemed dangerous when I have witnessed others showcasing it. Like a wild animal, I feel a need to tame it, lest it take hold of me in its jaws and tote me away for a hearty meal. Learning that it serves a valuable purpose if it can propel me to positive action. Pumping up the volume, knowing that I am in charge of the control switch.

Previous Posts

Live Your Great Story
  We are all repositories for experience. Nothing that happens in our lives ever goes away. While we may repress memories that could be too painful to recall, they remain in our cells. What if, instead, we decided to live our stories in ...

posted 10:37:42am May. 01, 2015 | read full post »

Seduced By A City
Landed in New Orleans yesterday, a.k.a. The Crescent City and The Big Easy. I had been planning the trip for the past month to spend time with my friend Jewelee and her husband Scott, their kiddos, and her family of choice, Virginia, Chris, ...

posted 11:38:31pm Apr. 29, 2015 | read full post »

Creative ADHD
While on the plane heading from Philadelphia to New Orleans for my first ever visit to attend Jazz Fest with friends, I was perusing the in flight mag called American Way- since my carrier is American Airlines. Being a writer, editor and former ...

posted 1:01:19pm Apr. 28, 2015 | read full post »

Pump Up The Volume
Having just returned from a workshop called Fearless Relating, facilitated by my friends Reid Mihalko and Monique Darling, I am awhirl with all kinds of ideas and awash in emotion. In the re-entry process, I am integrating what feels like a ...

posted 8:51:07am Apr. 27, 2015 | read full post »

The Event Will Go As The Event Will Go
  Rolling the clock back to the spring of 2005 and I find myself in the 5th floor walk up apartment in Manhattan of Reid Mihalko and Marcia Baczynski. Surrounded by blankets, pillows and pj clad strangers, save my brave friend who ...

posted 10:47:25pm Apr. 23, 2015 | read full post »

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