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Where's my house again?

I've finished compiling a chronological list of the places we lived before my parents divorced. I knew this was going to be a challenging feat, but once it was all mapped out, staring me in the face, that's when the reality of it all truly hit me.

I knew we moved a lot, but to say we lived in a new space every year would be an understatement. And that's not even including the three separate women's shelters where we took refuge during interim moves. Once we landed at Cherry Lane, the moving came to a halt, but the tragedies certainly did not — and when I left at sixteen, I carried that moving tradition on well into my early adult years. 

I wonder now if there wasn't some comfort to the leaving and creating a new space every time as a young adult? Clearly this is not something I would have been able to name at the time, but it would make sense to me now. As I started to look deeply within myself in my early thirties, becoming more aware of my experiences and honest with myself, life slowed down a bit for me, and my physical environments began to stabilize in a way I hadn't experienced before. 

I can't express how envious I am of those whom had or even still have a childhood home to return to. I really have nowhere to look back upon to place the bulk of my growing years. That just wasn't possible for us. Our lives were constantly scattered, the instability of the physical locations correlating directly to the chaos inside of us. Even now, as I type these words, there's an anxiety I feel about the constant uprooting, as if we were trying to escape some terrifying monster, which, of course, we were. 

I even remembered a time when I biked home from school to the wrong house, and sat down and cried because I thought my parents had abandoned me for good this time. It took about ten minutes before it sunk in that we had moved the previous weekend, to a different home on a different street in the same city. Domestic violence doesn't allow you to stay in one place for very long. 

There is one space, however, that still captures happy memories from my childhood, and that is my grandparent's cabin. We would visit nearly every summer, and I have wonderful memories of sunshine, fishing, and especially the routine of waking up to warm voices in the kitchen and the smell of coffee from the percolator, and the ringing of the dinner bell every evening as dusk started to settle in over the lake.

Kids crave that routine. It speaks of stability and safety. It's something I'm realizing I created for myself as an adult, where routine becomes almost similar to ritual, carrying with it great calming powers to shut out those unsettled feelings.

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Echoes of the past...

It's Tuesday, April 21st, and it's snowing. It's the kind of snow that you can hear as it pings against the window while it lands with an icy stubbornness, failing to realize that its time has already come and gone.

It feels symbolic, somehow, as I sit here poking and prodding at memories, churning up the dark places within — while outside, spring is supposed to be showering us with promises of renewal and rebirth.

Why do you suppose there are some memories that echo in our minds repeatedly, seemingly with us for our whole lives, while others are so difficult to retrace? Often times, the ones that plant themselves like perennials appear to be fairly innocent, yet I wonder if there isn't some deeper root to them, which is why they keep appearing, until we have learned our lesson from them and are able to let them go...

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The Creative Process

A fellow artist friend recently posted this to Facebook, and I couldn't have described the creative process better myself. It can be a vicious cycle, but it is totally, absolutely, 100% worth it!

One of the most interesting parts of my writing journey thus far has been figuring out what my creative process looks like. Being a naturally organized person, I'm inclined to map things out from start to finish. I had this unrealistic expectation that I would be able to write this manuscript from beginning to end, in that order, sequentially. 

Of course I hit a wall the first week upon diving in to this project. By day five, I was stuck. I couldn't figure out where to move next, creatively. My memories started to overlap each other, blending and morphing into indiscernible shapes as I tried to force them onto the page into the places that my mind had previously arranged.

Fortunately, I figured out very quickly that I can't force anything. When my creative mind paints a picture, it is vivid and heavy with memory, the sounds and smells and colors so intense it's as if I am experiencing them all over again. These are the pictures I need to capture at the very moment that they come flooding into my consciousness. 

My manuscript will come together in bits and pieces, and I'm just along for the ride, a passenger in the vehicle of my subconscious. If this were fifty years ago, I'd have stacks of type-written sheets all around me, with penciled notes scratching specific moments in time. I'd also have a waste-basket full of frustration.

Of course everything is digital now, so instead of having one file titled, "Cherry Lane: A Memoir," as I initially started out with — the expectation being that I would write this lengthy, meaty story from start to finish in one file (HA!) — I now have many files cluttering my desktop, representing various times and places, to pick up and enter like looking glasses into the past.

I'm absolutely excited, overwhelmed, and terrified at what this book will become. What could be more beautiful than creating a raw and moving story out of nothing but memories, turning the pain and loss into inspiration, and being just as surprised as the reader at the final product? 

If any of you are willing to share, what does your creative process look like? Is it similar to or different from my own?

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It is what it is... until it is something else.

I'm finding this phrase rolling around in my head this morning. It is a phrase I've called upon in the past... a useful perspective to store away and meditate upon, helping me stay 'present' during some of the more challenging times.

It can be applied to so many different things: relationships, work, health, money, education, family, tragedy, and even death.

Something as simple as 'it is what it is until it is something else' can help you understand and feel comfortable with the complexities of life — leaving the past and the future in their respective places just outside of reach, because they are not for us to control, dwell on, or obsess about. 

There is a certain power one gains in realizing that nothing is static. We and our lives are meant to constantly change. I find a contentedness and comfort within this wisdom, and welcome that change with open arms. 

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Top 3 Things I've Learned About Writing This Week

1. There are times when you sit down to write, and your fingertips will dance effortlessly across your keyboard. Hours will disappear unnoticed, and, later, upon rereading these words, you will feel pregnant with happiness and inspiration. 

2. There are times when you sit down to write, and your fingertips will rest heavily upon your keyboard. Your mind will be empty, and your conscience, a.k.a. your 'productivity tracker', anxious with anticipation. You will doodle on your notepad. You will stare out the window. You will curse the heavens.

3. The words will come when they come, but the most important thing you can do is be consistent. Each day, sit down at your keyboard as if you will be writing your heart out every time. Even those times that your hands sit idle while you are lost in thought, your creative mind is weaving a meaningful web of ideas to be spun in the near future. 

Art is a passionate endeavor. You can't force it, but you can be diligent in your pursuit! 

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Good morning, world!

I've been spending a good amount of time this morning doing research.

You wouldn't think there would be much research involved in penning a memoir. I mean, you're just writing about your own memories, right? But, as it turns out, there are a lot of little details that you forget as you start to get, *ahem*, a little bit older! 

Such as: how many women's shelters did we go to, how long were we there, and where the hell were they all again?

I stumbled across something really eye-opening as I was piecing things together. 

One of the shelters we stayed at, "a safe haven for women and children who have needed to flee their homes due to domestic violence", can accomodate 30 women and children and is usually filled to capacity. This shelter provides emergency assistance and support services to over 500 women and children each year. That's just one shelter. In one city. In one state. 

Can you imagine? Heartbreaking. Domestic violence is, indeed, still an epidemic in this country.

Tons of memories came flooding back of the time we spent here. I remember it being crowded, but I also remember an overwhelming sense of community. I remember loving the school I briefly attended, and playing with the kids in the shelter, and participating in 4H (a positive youth development and youth mentoring organization) for the first time. I also remember being sad when we had to say goodbye to start our new lives somewhere else.

There are so many powerful programs available to those that desperately need them. I'm feeling moved to figure out a way to develop a partnership with either this shelter or maybe a national organization to end domestic violence. It would be wonderful to be able to give back to those who helped us in our times of need, and continue to help countless others.

If you are interested in learning more or donating, please visit either the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women or the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Please feel free to like, share, or comment if so inspired. I welcome open dialogue on this blog!

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By releasing our pasts, we find new beginnings...

It is the beginning of the second day of my sabbatical. I am sitting in a coffee shop overlooking Nicollet Avenue, a big cup of joe at my side and chatter all around me, feeling thankful. 

Thankful that I had the courage to follow my heart. Thankful that the Universe has aligned itself just so, providing me with the opportunity to do so. And thankful, simply, just to be here.

Do you think there is something 'out there,' rooting for us to become the best selves we can become? Something other than our inner selves? Our will? Other than those we've surrounded ourselves with that provide us with the encouragement and motivation to keep moving forward? 

I truly don't know what I believe. It's surely hard to swallow that something could be rooting for those of us who have felt that at one point — at many points — so many somethings had been conspiring against us for uncountable years, it's a miracle that we survived them at all.

Yet some survivors are allowed to flourish, while others do not.

I don't have the answers. But I do have a story. And I hope to tell it — honestly, and without fear. We can't move forward without first facing and then letting go of the past. 

Originally, I intended on titling this memoir "Unbroken." It was a word that spoke to me. It felt good on my tongue, my lips. It invoked images of resiliency and tenacity. Then a good friend brought to my attention an already best-selling novel by the same name, which I hadn't heard of, and jokingly told me that Laura Hillenbrand would sue my ass if I tried to use that title!

She was right, of course. It's strange how things happen sometimes... as attached to that name as I initially was, now that I am immersed in my writing journey, I realize that unbroken isn't as much a title as it is a feeling. A title, in my mind, is the wrapper of what's inside. It should speak to the time and the place and the heart of the story. 

And such was born Cherry Lane — where we lived after fleeing from my father, and where I truly feel I lost the last of my innocence, while unknowingly growing a will as strong as iron to carve my way into this beautiful disaster of a world. Here is where I will face the most painful parts of my past, and then set them onto these pages, freeing myself once and for all. 

I look forward to sharing my journey with you — and thank you for listening.

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I run into the future with everything that I have...

...which isn't much, just this pen and a few sheets of paper.

Something gnaws at the back of my conscience like an irritating thought on repeat, but I refuse to listen. I have come to claim my territory. It is vast. Too vast for my liking. But I will explore as I go, mapping out my subconscious like an impossibly endless sea, mocking my compulsion to categorize and label everything I see. 

It overwhelms me, this desire to understand the impressions that are burned into my mind's eye. So I set myself adrift into the abyss...

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