Saturday, September 15, 2007

In Which I Finish a Library Book

It is not often that I read a book that I would recommend to just about anyone and everyone. Louise DeSalvo’s Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives is one of those rarities. I have already recommended it to my mother whose discerning tastes usually prohibit my recommending much by the way of literature to her. I have shared quotes from this book, even before I finished it, with message boards. I am thrilled to have read it and be able to share it. But there is also a sadness that came with the reading. I found myself frustrated when she would talk about how, when she was struggling with her writing she would turn to her friend, a fellow writer. The book, in fact, concludes with a list of reasons why having an empathic listener (aka reader) is so essential to the healing process that comes with writing.

In the end, I felt that just writing isn’t enough. You have to have someone there reading along with you, sharing an opinion about your writing, encouraging you to explore areas you might otherwise avoid and challenge you to expose things you are too vulnerable to pour out. In other words, the book said I am doing the right thing and that I am right when I say I need more than what I have.

It does not tell me how to get what I need, however.

That is my personal reaction to what I read. Here are some quotations from the book itself.
Research has demonstrated that depressed and suicidal people are much less likely to report memories or happenings in an extremely specific way. Instead, recollections tend to be overly general and vague. It’s possible that this is a strategy for avoiding pain or that the contents of memory are being censored. Still, when narratives are reported in an overgeneralized [sic] way, any situation seems more catastrophic than it really is. (57)
One of the other points she brings up is that it is not enough to complain about things. The person who whines or rants about a disease will not experience healing the same way that someone who writes about the disease will. I can bitch and moan about my vertigo but writing about how it feels to have vertigo, the ways in which I have learned to deal with the condition, and the challenges I face not only trying to maintain my balance constantly but also not having a label with which to define my condition are all important truths, parts of the story that will allow me to make peace with myself and my body.
Writing about traumatic or troubling life experiences initially unleashes difficult, conflicting emotions. In the long run, though, we feel better emotionally and are healthier and achieve a level of understanding of our lives that only writing can provide. Safe writing—writing that we already know or understand, writing that is superficial—won’t help us grow, either as people or as writers. For our writing to be healing, we must encounter something that puzzles, confuses, troubles, or pains us. (93)
Most exciting for me, as I was reading along, were the clarifications that journaling is not the only ways to write through to healing. Poetry is another means of digging into circumstances to come through them with some clarity. Journaling that evolves into memoir is another way. Even fictional narratives, whether short stories or novels, can be healing. In fact, she argues that the longer works can be even more effective.
I believe . . . that writing an autobiographical narrative that’s . . . thirty type-written pages and that takes three months or so from preparation to completion enables us to participate in a healing process that is deeper than if we write only journal, short work, or poetry or only works about others, never about ourselves. (134)
I don’t argue. In fact, I emphatically agree and firmly believe that my writing has kept me from completely falling apart more than once and that my attempts at writing novels or novellas absolutely helped me face things about myself and my life that I could find no other way to face.

There are other quotes which I have saved. I would be surprised if I did not refer to them in the future. But I want to conclude this with a list I culled from DeSalvo’s text.

How and Why Empathic Listeners Can Help (211-212)
First, they can act as a caring presence to enable us to really hear what we’ve written.
Second, they can reflect back to us what we have written.
Third, our empathic listeners can tell us what they like in our work or what works for them.
Fourth, our listeners can tell us when there are what I call “holes in the narrative”—those places where we’re so close to the story that we don’t realize that our listener cannot possible understand something.
Fifth, when we share our work, our listeners can tell us where they would like to hear more.
Sixth, our listeners can tell us what they observe about how we have survived—our victories, our defeats, and our struggles.
Seventh, listeners can help us see the patterns in our narrative and in our lives.

Friday, September 14, 2007

In Which I Finish A Book

Of course, here I am, breaking my rule about not writing reviews about books I have read before but I wanted to share at least a few thoughts.

Oriah's book comes closest to any I have read to describing my understanding of the world. Her perspective is very much like my own. My only and biggest complaint with the book is that there is no cd to accompany the guided meditations. I am really getting frustrated with this because so many books I have read lately have had lovely meditations. All well and good but how are you supposed to close your eyes while meditating and read the words in the page? So I went to her website to see if there is a cd available. Nope. No cd available. Grrrrr . . . and typical.

Why not offer the meditations online? Why not just record something that the reader can use to experience each chapter more fully? Perhaps some people would not buy the book, read the chapters. But if more people would experience the meditations I suspect that more people would want to buy the book, read the chapters that lead up to each meditation. I simply cannot imagine this would not help sales.

Perhaps I am naive. Still, Oriah has managed to save me the trouble of writing out what I believe. She's done it for me. I can just point to this book and say, "This is what makes sense to me."

I have another book by the author that was given to me as a gift.  I hesitate to read it. I like The Invitation. I think I just want to sit with the afterglow of what I read for now. It feels better that way.

To read the poem that started it all, click here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

In Which Today's Post is Not Happening Due to Inclement Weather

Rob and I have determined that changes in barometric pressure causes my vertigo to flare up. Due to Hurricane Humberto, I am having a bad bad vertigo day.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In Which I Am Still Cleaning House I deleted three more telephone numbers from my cell phone and tomorrow I block an email address of someone who sends out mass emails asking people to read her blog but who can’t pick up a phone and make plans to see me. (She lives all of ten minutes away, for the record.) Those were the easy ones. The harder one was leaving certain online message boards in yahoogroups. One I haven’t left but I did switch myself to no mail. I keep saying I want something very specific in my life. I sent out feelers to see if there was any chance of my finding what I need in any of these groups and the answer came back a very loud and clear “No.” I am done settling for less. I know what I want. It is like complaining about not meeting new people and inviting the same group of friends to come over week after week. I won’t meet new people unless I get out of the house. For me this means getting out of the relationships that are not fulfilling my spiritual and emotional goals. But it is scary. I am reminded of a joke, one of my favorites.
A man is walking along the edge of a cliff when he slips and falls over the side. He manages to grab onto a tree growing out from the side of the cliff. Hanging there, he tries to pull himself up but is unable to do so. He struggles and strains and eventually realizes that he is growing too weak to even hold onto the branch for much longer. He begins crying out for help. “Help! I need help! Is anyone up there?” “Yes,” a voice from overhead says. “I’m here. I can help you if you do exactly what I say.” “Who are you?” the man asks. “I am God.” “God,” the man cries out, “please help me!” “Will you do what I tell you to do?” “Yes, God. Whatever you say!” “Let go of the branch.” The man is understandably flabbergasted. “What?” “I said: let go of the branch.” “If I let go of the branch, I’ll fall.” “I can’t help you unless you let go of the branch.” The man thinks about it for a moment and then shouts, “Is there anybody else up there?”
Well God, this is me, Satia. I’m letting go of the branches of relationship that no longer serve. I know what I need. You know what I need. And now, I’m free falling.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Monday, September 10, 2007

In Which I Concede That This Post is a Sell-Out Amazingly enough, Justin Timberlake has gained some serious cool points by saying that MTV should play more music videos. What the hell is he thinking, that MTV was created to show music videos or something? Kids these days! You just gotta laugh. I mean, it isn’t like back in my day when they actually, you know, showed videos. You know, when it was a big deal that Michael Jackson was coming out with a long video for his latest release complete with movie quality make-up effects, zombies and more. Or even when one hit wonders could seem wonderful because their video was so well produced that you went out and bought their dreadful album unaware that they are just another one hit wonder. And do we really believe that the reason Kid Rock hit Tommy Lee was over Pamela Anderson? I’m sorry but I thought she and the so-called triangle were no longer a reality or is this the reality check I never quite know what to do with? Where do you go to cash one of these things? And someone please tell me if Pam’s pussy is made of gold or something because how else can you explain Tommy Lee and Kid Rock fighting over her after all this time. I guess boys will be boys but I would think that Tommy Lee, who has had a long string of truly dazzling women to bed and dump, would have moved on by now. Way on. Like another continent on. Kid Rock? Now I can see his being hung up on losing L’Anderson again. After all, he is not very likely to ever do better even if his next album goes platinum. And when Pamela Anderson is the best you can do as far as a serious relationship is concerned . . . well, that’s just kinda sad, you know. Makes me want to go to bed again and just weep. As for Britney Spears, I truly don’t know what to say. I think the media has been entirely too harsh with her from beginning to end. I am sorry that she chose to strut her post pregnancy body in a skimpy outfit because it just gave the media more fodder for attacks. Okay, kids, let’s play nice. She’s had babies—not one but two! And not so very long ago. You can’t expect her perfect abs to be oh-so-perfect so soon. I didn’t see her performance so I can’t comment on the rest but wouldn’t it be nice if maybe singers actually sang while on stage? I mean, choreography is wonderful and if you can dance then I say go for it but even Broadway choreographers understand the concept of the big dance number not having solo singing going along with the high kicks and fast taps. Yeah. I’m old. What can I say? I actually think that singers should be able to sing too. Shocking, I know. But remember when videos made stars out of non-singing duos like Milli Vanilli who managed to lip sync their way to fame and then into notoriety. Ahhhh . . . yes . . . those were the days. And in the category of “Living Well is the Best Revenge” the winner is . . . Justin Timberlake who managed to outshine his ex love both in record sales and over all success of late. This week September 10 through September 16 This week you demonstrate your big heart and willingness to help others. Monday, the Moon enters your sector of service and volunteerism, and, with your customary flair and desire to get things moving, you spend a lot of time coming up with ways to help out someone you know is in need. You pick up the phone, call agencies for advice, and manage to enlist a lot of support for your associate. That's a great boon for him or her, especially since this person isn't able to do it. Chalk up a gold star for yourself.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

In Which I Write About Bellydancing and DVDs

I’ve been writing about bellydancing the past few days and so I thought I would quickly share what dvds I have been using. I have a total of seven but only two teachers for all the dvds. I bought the first on a whim because it was dirt cheap and had four dvds in one cheap set. The second I bought because it was recommended to me. Both are good and I enjoy them both for very different reasons.

The first is a set from Dolphina who is lovely to watch. Her dvd is divided into sections so you work from the upper body (head, shoulders, arms) down to the hips, including undulations. Her sets are gorgeous on the one dvd as are her costumes even when she is only in her workout gear with a hip scarf wrapped around her hips. Also, the music is more authentic although some of her historical facts border on the mythic. The one complaint I have heard is that the dvd too often focuses on her face rather than on her body and you don’t really get to see how each move works.

You cannot say this about Neon’s dvds. The camera rarely comes in close to Neon’s face, pulling far enough back to really see the way her body moves. She goes very slowly through the technical breakdown of each move. As if that were not enough, the dvd has a diagram that further breaks down the movement as she makes it so you can clearly see how your hips, shoulders, head, etc. should move. This makes it very easy to see how you each move should be performed, first slowly and then more quickly.

However, Neon’s dvd, although it will definitely teach you more precisely than will Dolphina’s is more contemporary. Everything from what she wears to the music looks and sounds more like something you would see/hear in a club. As a viewer, I wanted more of the lush and traditional than the technical but as a person who is wanting to learn to dance, I’ll give up the prettiness of Dolphina’s sets to really focus on the breakdown of each move.

Still, Dolphina’s workout is the one that makes me sweat. I haven’t managed to work all the way through Neon’s because some of the moves are impossible with my vertigo (the vertical drops and larger head rolls) and her practices are interspersed with reviews which frankly end up confusing me. I am progressing, however. As I do the same dvd over and over again I see where this time I am doing more than last time. Maybe one day I’ll get all the way through the dvd. Who knows. Well, all the way through minus the vertical drops and things that make me too dizzy.

Which is another thing I ought to confess because I haven’t really been able to take any of the steps such as moving to the left or forward. It is hard enough for me to remain standing. I end up losing it altogether when I try to move around. (I lost my balance sitting up to get out of bed yesterday. What can I expect?) So I do what I can, shimmy or do infinity hip slides (figure eights/yin yang symbols . . .depending on which dvd I am watching) until I can get back into the rhythm of what is happening on the screen.

A while back I bought a bellydancing vhs with the twins Neena and Veena. I see that they are not only now available on dvd but recommended. I found their workout to be rather boring. I didn’t feel as though I had exercised at all by the time I was done and the explanations took so long that I became bored waiting for them to get to the workout. They are definitely pretty to watch but I want to feel like I am learning something and/or breaking a sweat. If I want to look at something pretty, I can watch a movie or watch a sunset.

The first time I did Dolphina’s dvd, my abs were sore the next day. That’s only happened one other time. Now, they don’t hurt at all. In fact, when Rob and I finally got back to exercising together in the morning, he complained that his abs were hurting the next day. Mine were still not sore. So whatever these dvds are doing is working. Yes, I am even seeing smaller numbers on the scale. Smaller than I have seen in weeks, maybe even months.
I'll write about the other dvds from both when I have managed to work through them all.

An Interview With Dolphina