Welcome to Following the Whispers blog
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.
“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf
“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt
Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
What do you think about taking breaks from blogging regularly?
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Last night I watched the video my hubby took of Sugartime's birthday concert Sunday. There were things I was pleased about and things I wasn't happy about at all, in terms of my and our performance. I was more frightened than I'd been in a long time. For the last few months, performing at retirement communities, I've had no stage fright at all. Just enjoyed being up there singing and playing with the audience. This time, I felt as if my heart was going to leap right out of my chest, it was pounding so hard and so fast. For those of you who have tried singing, it is virtually impossible to sing the right notes if your heart is pounding - you can't breathe properly. One of my three solos was the second song on the program. It was awful. The other two were fine. As a group, we aren't together in our choreographed moves. And sometimes we don't sing quite together. But on balance, we come across really well. Our joy of singing and our love for each other comes through loud and clear.
So here's my random thought for the day. How important is it to be perfect? Or as perfect as we can be, since perfection really isn't possible. I think we strive for the best, but then we have to accept reality. I can't change the fact that when I'm nervous, my voice doesn't do what I want it to do. It goes off key. I hate that, but I can't change it. Does that mean I should give up singing in front of others? This is a rhetorical question--I know I must answer this for myself.
But how about you? Do you strive for perfection? How do you handle the reality of whatever it is?
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
When I shared this fear with my writing coach, he said, rather than stepping into someone else, just invite them to dialogue. Spend time with them, as you would a new friend. Invite them to talk to you. In that way, you remain you.
I like that idea. I wonder if it's like real life, where some people are willing to open up and tell you their stories, and others don't reveal a thing about themselves. It will be interesting to see who turns up and what they have to say or what they don't say.
Is it easy for you to lose yourself, both in real life, and in your writing? If so, how to you handle that?
Monday, April 26, 2010
I'd been thinking about how I still look for approval from certain people in my life and it's the ones from whom I will never receive it. They just don't give it, for a variety of reasons. The message came loud and clear from deep inside me, STOP SEEKING APPROVAL FROM ANYONE ELSE. No one is going to come say, "Karen, you are a gifted: writer, singer, dancer." But know that YOU YOU YOU are a gift. Today, on your birthday, you are the gift. Some will accept you. Others won't. That doesn't change the gift itself. The gift is what it is--how it's received is not about the gift. It's about the receiver. Maybe the receiver likes blue and the gift is dressed in red. Maybe the receiver woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day. Let go of control. Of Everything. Your bodily functions, whether you exercise or not. You will now do what you need to do in each moment of each day. Trust it.
That's my Monday musing, folks. Each one of you is a gift. Treasure it. Nurture it. Love it. It is what it is.
Friday, April 23, 2010
In the meantime, I want to share a piece of the vision statement I created for my fiction work. It came as a result of a meditation exercise from "Voice of the Muse," the book my writing coach, Mark David Gerson, wrote.
I am the drumbeat of your heart. Your heart beats a rhythm and you hear the song, dance to its beat, move with its lyrics. You sing the drumbeat, beat beat, thump thump. The sound of your heart shifts the energy of your soul as you put thoughts on paper. Hear your thoughts. Hear your words. Hear my whispers. I am calling you to me. I am your Siren Song. I am calling you to rise above your persona - the you you think you are. I am calling you to your wisdom. The lush, rich energy of all you have been, all you are and all you are meant to be. The drumbeat of your heart beats every second of every minute of every day, sending you the message you need to hear. Be still and listen. It will sing you your song, your story, your next step, your life.
What is your heart singing to you?
Thursday, April 22, 2010
For so many years, I found it difficult to voice an opinion. Afraid others wouldn't like me if I disagreed, I'd go along with the majority--sure, I liked the movie, song, book, whatever. Oh, you want to eat Indian food, I love Indian food, whether I did or not. A chameleon adapts to its environment, changing colors for protection.
When I began taking singing lessons in 2005, my voice was that of a little girl, yet I was 56. It was a huge piece of my healing process to identify that. As I sang in front of others, I learned about the patterns of shutting down I'd formed at age seven. Unable to tolerate being the center of attention, I became quiet, unobtrusive, if you don't notice me, I won't get in trouble.
Now I am performing in front of 20, 30 people at a time. And not just in group songs. I sing solos, which is very brave when you consider that I don't have a great singing voice. Why am I doing this?
At first I thought it was because I've always loved to sing. It soothes me and brings me joy. Now I know it's much more. It's the metaphor for what the commenter said. Yours is a voice that needs to be heard. But it's not just my voice--we all need to be heard. The greatest gift we can give another person is to listen to what they are saying--really listen and hear, not just the words, but what's behind the words, what's not being said. Ask questions to clarify and draw someone out even further.
My memoir gave voice to the pain of my childhood. The singing gives voice to the joy and contentment I've found in adulthood. My writing gives voice to all of the above and so much more.
What does your voice need to say? Who have you not been listening to? Let your voice give a shout out in the comments today.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I have my health, my loving hubby, a wonderful relationship wtih my son, my now diabetic but otherwise healthy dog, kind and loving friends, and I pretty much get to do what I want with my time: write, blog, sing, read. How blessed can one person be? People say I deserve it, because of all the pain in my earlier years. Actually the pain lasted until I was in my forties. But I say, we all deserve it. Some of us have to work harder than others, I guess, to get to a peaceful place in our lives. My struggles are mostly internal now. Old thought patterns, familiar habits, faulty belief systems, that pop up when least expected.
On this, the 61st year of my life, I can honestly say I am content. What more could I ask for. I am so very grateful.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Several months ago I made a commitment to writing a memoir of my girlhood in Los Alamos. That was a unique place to grow up, especially right after World War II, when the world was booming — and so were test shots on nearby mesas (none radioactive). My challenge is to craft a memoir that balances time and place with my personal story. I want the book to appeal to people who are interested in Los Alamos and its history, even if they never heard of me.
As I pondered a few dark key memories, especially about fitting in at school, a stunning thing happened. Those images suddenly reversed. I discovered that if I turned things around 180º, they looked quite different. If I was left out, it probably happened once or twice a year, certainly not every day. Happy memories began flooding back. Some, like being the last one chosen for softball teams no longer mattered. Those dark memories were nothing but negatives for “printing” a positive picture.
Other less tangible memories like my ongoing fascination and subliminal awareness of Indian “spirit” surfaced. I recognized the paradox most of us lived with — fascination with science and technology on one hand and a thriving community of churches on the other.
I don’t think I would have retrieved and developed many of these memories or connected the dots between them if I hadn’t determined to write this memoir. There is something about the process of writing that breathes new life into old thoughts, revitalizing them and displaying them in new contexts and colors.
My involvement in the overall field of life writing has become yet another career that’s a source of joy and satisfaction I never found in my earlier work. Writing memoir is giving me the opportunity to find the roots of my strengths and prune the energy sapping weeds from my view of the past. And that has to be a good thing.
Thank you, Sharon, for these wonderful insights into memoir writing.
Sharon Lippincott never set out to write a memoir. She only intended to write a few stories to share with her grandchildren, so they’d know what life was like when she was young. That intention took on a life of its own. She discovered that she loved writing stories about her life and the people in it. She fell in love with this earthy, open, informal style of writing. She joined internet groups, read everything she could find, and began teaching lifestory writing workshops at local senior centers, libraries and continuing ed programs.
Then her pile of handouts got out of control and morphed into a book, The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing. As soon as she committed to writing that book, she started a blog on the subject and joined Story Circle Network, a women’s organization that at the time, was the only organization she was aware of for lifestory and memoir writers. Shortly after that, Jerry Waxler, a fellow blogger, joined with Sharon to start the Life Writers Forum to provide a non-exclusive place for memoir writers to collaborate and grow together.
The next phase began about a year ago when Linda Joy Meyers asked her to serve on the Advisory Board for the newly formed National Association of Memoir Writers. That was a timely turning point. Sharon had piled up over 500 vignette stories There were plenty more to write, but penning random stories had lost its challenge. She’d published a short memoir of her preschool years, and was ready for a bigger project. Her involvement with NAMW motivated her to study the power of memoir and its tranformative value, and the more she learned, the more intrigued she became.
I found Sharon when I began my internet marketing experience after publishing “Following the Whispers.” She was one of the first people I “met” and, in addition to writing a stellar review of my memoir,” Sharon turned me on to all sorts of groups, including NAMW and Story Circle Network. She has provided the following links—do yourselves a favor and check them out.
Sharon’s blog: http://heartandcraft.blogspot.com/
Sharon’s book: http://snurl.com/vgejv
Life Writers Forum: http://www.lifewritersforum.com/
Story Circle Network: http://www.storycircle.org/
National Association of Memoir Writers: http://www.namw.org/
Monday, April 19, 2010
I've grown tired of weekend updates, so I'm changing Monday's blog posts to Monday Musings, which simply means I can ramble on about whatever strikes my fancy and hope that some of these thoughts will reach out and touch some of you.
This week I am the person to contact for my friend's elderly parent. I'd been somewhat depressed for a couple of days, then suddenly, this crisis happened and I was "needed." It made me realize that I only feel needed when there's a crisis and I can jump in and help. Hmm. Does this mean there is still a slight issue with low self-esteem lurking in my psyche? And why do I need to be needed in the first place? Don't I have value just because...? I'm not expecting answers to these questions, kind people, I'm just musing aloud. Does anyone relate?
Oh, and maybe I wasn't depressed at all. Maybe it was my intuition letting me know something was stirring. Something I need to pay attention to. I am on a spiritual journey, seeking ways to enhance my inner peace and grow, emotionally and spiritually, so literally everything that happens can offer insight and wisdom.
Like when I visited my elderly friend last week. I was talking about the two fiction pieces I am struggling with and realized that I have a deep-seated fear of entering into the head of an "evil" or "bad" character. That is a big part of my resistance. But in order to write fiction, one must enter into the character, yes? Once the reason for resistance is identified, perhaps there will be ways to get comfortable with that process.
I guess that's enough for now. What have you been musing about lately?
Friday, April 16, 2010
Why does this happen? Usually there is nothing you can do at 2 am to resolve any of the things you are obsessing about. Like how am I going to fit 30+ people in my living room and still have space enough for the five singers in Sugartime to perform. And how are we going to resolve the issue of gig dates and having to make changes when one of us has to travel or has a family obligation. And where should hubby and I live when he retires? And why oh why are no words coming out of me and onto the page in any of my works in progress. And why did Buddy (our dog) get diabetes and is he going to be okay?
I think you get the idea. So I am slogging through Thursday, working on letting go of my attachment to the outcome of any of these dilemmas (see yesterday's post on Taking the Action and Letting Go of the Result).
Being tired does not lend itself to creativity. Or exercising. Or much else. So I'm taking myself to visit a sick friend. She's in her 80s and has a clot in her leg which they are trying to dissolve. And severe edema, so she can't walk. I'm supposed to cheer her up. I know I'll be able to summon the energy for that at least.
Have a great weekend, everyone.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Incredibly frustrated, angry and feeling quite helpless, I finally let go of the results. It's not the only thing that's been frustrtating me. We have an ongoing discussion going on about whether to stay in our current house or try to find a different one that better suits our needs. It's complicated and involves when hubby retires and whether to incur additional mortgage expenses at this point in our lives. And my writing has just not been happening, although I do think I'm moving along in the process.
No sooner did I let go and felt that deep inner sigh that comes when you do that, then what the technician was doing began to work. Three hours later, the software was re-installed and working. Yahoo!!!!
My very valuable lesson, with this and everything else in my life, is to continue to strive to detach from the outcome of whatever it is I'm dealing with. Easier said than done, I admit. But oh, the inner peace that comes as a result.
What are you holding onto?
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
But my memoir was published one year ago. It's an attitude thing. If I say to myself, I am a writer, than when I don't write, I feel awful. If I say I'm retired, then if I don't write, it doesn't matter, because by definition, retired means you don't have to work anymore.
That doesn't feel good to me. I want to be productive. These are the best years of my life. I am healthy, injury free, seem to have physical energy I haven't had before since losing all the weight.
I need a paradigm shift. Maybe it's not about what I am, but who I am. Because really, I am a wife, a mother, a friend, a sister-in-law, a dancer, a singer, and I write. I don't do anything for a living anymore, but I write because I have things inside me that seem to want to express themselves. Whether anyone else ever sees those things -- well, I can't let that stop me from self-expressing. It took me so many years to find my Self, I can't lose it now by not giving that Self a forum.
So I guess I am both--retired and a writer. But the next time someone asks me what I do, I'm going to say, I'm living my life trying to be the best Karen I can possibly be.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
As far back as I can remember, I wanted to look different. I had dark, curly hair and freckles while the Beach Boys were singing about blonde surfer gurls. I'm only 5'3 1/2" tall and wanted to be at least 5' 7".
If my hair was long, I'd see a girl with short hair and want that, or vice versa.
I've written about this subject extensively, including an essay (never published) called "I'll Never Be Miss America," and one essay called "Old Lady Arms," which was published (you can read this one in the articles/esssay tab on this blog). But despite the awareness and acceptance of this character trait (a much nicer word than flaw, don't you think?), I still have moments when I envy another woman for her appearance. It's not about wanting to look younger. At least I don't think it is. The funny thing is, the women I tend to envy take a great deal of care with their appearance. They put product on their hair, blow dry it, put more product on. They wear makeup. They spend tons of money on clothes. These are things I haven't been willing to make myself do. I only wear makeup if I'm going somewhere special or performing. I almost never blow dry my hair--it's naturally curly and I just fluff with my fingers and I'm done. And spending a fortune on one outfit. That just seems ridiculous to me.
When I used to attend 12-step meetings (I am not an alcoholic or addict, but I knew plenty), the slogans helped me navigate my way in the world in a much healthier way than I'd learned growing up. Sayings like: one day at a time, keep the focus on yourself, and be gentle with yourself, gave me moments of serenity. But the one slogan that speaks volumes to me now is: comparison is an act of vengeance against yourself.
Think about it. If you are comparing yourself to others and falling short, in your own opinion, than you are saying you are less than someone else. If, on the other hand, you compare yourself favorably to someone else, you are saying you are more or better than someone else. Either way, you are judging them or you.
I have done a lot over the years change my insides. A few years ago, I took steps to change the outside. I am maintaining a 49-pound weight loss. I wear clothing that shows my slimmer figure and I feel good about how I look (most of the time), even if I don't do anything to enhance it. I stopped dyeing my hair - it's now white. So why do I still torture myself with negative comparisons?
The good news is I don't stay in that place very long. I notice it immediately and am learning to laugh at myself. But I would like to get to the point where I no longer even go there. Where I can look at another woman and say, "Isn't she beautiful?" and not wish I was her.
Bottom line: I don't really want to be anyone else anymore. Being me is just fine. It's just these little momentary lapses, slipping back into old thought patterns. What about you?
Your turn. Fess up. Are you ever jealous? How do you deal with it?
Monday, April 12, 2010
I had a blast this weekend, doin' what I love. Friday night we had delicious Indian food with two dear friends, then went to see my young friend, S. in a production of Rudolfo Anaya's "Bless Me Ultima."
Saturday morning, I sat, curled up on my coach, drinking tea and watching old movies. I had a gig that afternoon and tend not to do too much prior so I can conserve energy.
The audience adored us, clamoring for us to come back and sing for them again. There is no higher high. The other good news is that I have learned not to allow stress and anxiety to affect my singing. We were supposed to sing at 3 pm. The residents were still playing Bingo at 3pm, so we couldn't sound check our equipment. As soon as they were done, they were given wine for happy hour and sat, expecting us to sing. Immediately. We did. One mike was way louder than the others, but otherwise, everything went smoothly. We realized if we allow that kind of thing to make us upset, the fun goes out of the experience and than why bother?
Which is my point for this blog post. If we're not having fun, what's the point? So, are you having enough fun in your life? If so, please share how. If not, talk about what you might do to add a little, here and there. Just a tad...it will make such a difference. I promise.
For those of you interested in what it's like working with a writing coach, I have a guest post over at Sharon Lippincott's blog, http://heartandcraft.blogspot.com/.
Friday, April 9, 2010
There are things I do trust with absolute certainty: I know I am a good person with good intentions who tries hard to overcome my past and be the best I can be. I know this time I've chosen a partner who loves me unconditionally and is on my side no matter what. I know I did the best I could with my memoir and that it will make it into the hands of those who need it. I know that in each moment I have choices about my thoughts, my behavior and my actions.
Where I am stuck is trusting that I am a storyteller. I told my story in my memoir, but that, I tell myself, is quite different from telling a "made up" story. I don't see myself as a "creative" person. My homework assignment from my writing coach is to find a way to re-connect with the magical child I was, before the sexual abuse, before devastating incidents with my father, before all the things that caused me to shut down so completely that I stopped singing, dancing, drawing, and making up stories. The singing and dancing have long since returned. Now it's time to reclaim my ability to create from nothing.
I need to trust in my ability to do what I need to do as I move through these steps towards writing the pieces that are simmering inside me.
Where in your life do you need to trust more?
Thursday, April 8, 2010
In one, I have the three main characters, a seed of an idea for plot, and that's it. The other is only a voice that came to me in Ireland asking me to tell its story. I think it's female. It's whisper was genderless. Bits and pieces are coming in a very disjointed manner and it is disorienting. Yesterday I realized that the nonfiction piece needs to be more personal, not a guide as I originally thought. Just like my memoir, which began as a 700-page self-help tome. Then an editor told me to just "tell my story." Sheesh.
Sunday I did a little ritual around these writing pieces, asking Spirit to guide me. I also made a commitment to trust the process. The first draft is really only discovering what the story is. All I have to do is allow it to emerge, in its own time, in its own way. For someone who likes to be in control, being in this cloud of unknowing is hard. But after my ceremony, I am at least in a place of comfort with the process. It is what it is.
How do you deal with discomfort in your life and/or your writing and/or your work?
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
We just completed all the arrangements. Now we wait with eager anticipation for Memorial Day weekend, when we depart. The excitement prior to a trip is almost as good as actually getting there.
What are some of your favorite vacations? Mine is still the time we went to Europe for six weeks after I graduated from college (at 56 years old). Despite recovering from a fractured ankle, we went to 11 countries.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
At sixteen, I discovered folk dancing. I was a camp counselor at a Hebrew Day Camp and was assigned to assist the dance instructor, who was Israeli. Folk dances are cultural dances of a country. For example, the Hambo is a cultural dance from Sweden; the Czardas is a cultural dance from Hungary. Our recreational folk dance group does dances from Israel, Hungary, Sweden, Romania, Bulgaria, Servia, Croatia, Turkey, Greece, Albania, and many more.
I quit folk dancing when I got married at 19 and didn't dance again until I divorced, at 28. After that it was 18 years before I would dance once more. It's where I met current hubby and it is something we share together. But I've had a series of injuries over the last few years that have kept me from dancing much at all: surgery on my left knee, surgery on my right ankle, a severely sprained left ankle, and surgery on my right shoulder. I am fine if I walk or hike, but dancing seems to aggravate my left knee. If I could just stick to slow, simple dances, I'd probably be fine, but when the music to a dance I love begins, I can't sit still. Then I pay the price--aching knee for several days afterwards.
At what point do we give in to things like that and let go of things we love. This is one of the crucial issues we face as we grow older. When to stop driving, when to let go of certain physical activities, when to acknowledge we can't remember whether we took our pills already this morning.
I'm turning 61 on April 24. I feel great (except for the aching knee after dancing). I am maintaining a 50-pound weight loss, I am singing regularly, my new writing is beginning to take off. Life is so incredibly wonderful. I'm not ready just yet to give up the dancing that I love, or to sit still while my favorite dances come on. Perhaps if I get in the habit of icing my knee after working it hard, and taking ibiprofen, I can eek out a few more years. I'm lucky that singing filled the void dancing left when I couldn't do it. But I'm greedy--I want to do both!
What things would be difficult for you to give up if you had to?
Monday, April 5, 2010
I'm in love with "Millie," our new Hybrid. She can travel more than 600 miles on one tank of gas, she's beautiful, and she tells me where to go. You have no idea how much time she is going to save me. I used to have to leave my house 1/2 hour to 3/4 of an hour early, in case I got lost. And if I went from my house to Point A and then had to go to Point B from Point A, I'd have to go home first to get to Point B. Not now. Millie tells me how to get there. All I have to do is tell her a street address and city and boom, she directs me every step of the way. She's my new BFF.
Easter Sunday was hard without MIL. We still went to brunch with our friend and her mom, just as we'd done the past few years with MIL, but there was someone missing at the table. I wasn't ready to lose her just yet, which is what is making the grieving so much harder. I'm working on accepting what is and this past week was the first time I felt fairly normal again.
Spring has brought renewed energy for my writing projects. What has the renewal that is Spring brought you?
Friday, April 2, 2010
My memoir had a foundation (my past) and structure (my journals). I could choose a beginning and I knew the ending (at least as far as I'd come on my journey at the time of writing). Unless you are the kind of fiction writer who knows the story they want to write, writing a novel is a whole new world. All I have is this voice which came to me in Ireland saying, "tell my story." I am getting bits and pieces. Mark David said it's as if I have a giant jigsaw puzzle. The cover of the box is the novel, which already exisits, I just can't see it. The bits and pieces are the pieces of the puzzle, strewn over the floor. When you are working a jigsaw puzzle, you may get a few pieces that fit together, but you don't know where they go in the big picture for quite some time.
When I finished my memoir (a 10-year journey), I felt as if I'd made a jigsaw puzzle of my life and the things that happened to me made sense in ways they never had. Although there is no structure or foundation in writing this novel, the metaphor of the jigsaw puzzle is similar. Being someone who is extremely organized, I have to get comfortable with no structure and trust the process. It feels utterly chaotic.
There has been spiritual guidance about this work. One of the messages is that I hand-write, rather than write on the computer. Mark David suggested that at the end of the day, I type anything handwritten into the computer so that I can "organize" the bits and pieces as they come. The computer would make the work more accessible than handwritten pages. That gives me a "structure" I feel a bit more comfortable with.
Trust the process....trust the process...trust the process....my new mantra.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
But there are guidebooks for everything--the hybrid part, the navigation system, the satellite radio, travel link. Rather than get overwhelmed as I usually do when trying to learn new things, I am telling myself I am creating new brain cells. Experts say to stave off dementia, we need to keep learning. I do this with songs and dances. But when it comes to technology, it's much tougher.
What I know for sure is that I need to manage my expectations while learning something new. I can't expect myself to get things in an instant--like when I was teaching myself the guitar. I thought once I knew the chords, I'd just be able to play well. Uh uh. It takes practice, learning fingering techniques, making smooth transitions.
By the time we leave for our national park trip this summer, I'm pretty sure I will have mastered how to download cd's into the hard drive of the car; import playlists from my ipod into the car as well; plug in a destination in the GPS system; and use the voice activation for the bluetooth phone thingie. The first time I drove the car, the phone rang, I pushed the button on the steering wheel, and my friend's voice filled the car. It was discombobulating, but awesome. Much easier than trying to answer the cell phone (which is illegal in New Mexico).
This car will simplify my life, once I get the hang of it. And how can that be bad?