Monthly Archives: March 2012

Reflections on Daily Blogging

Well, I did it. Every day in March, something new appeared on this blog. It has been a fascinating experiment and I thank everybody who came along for the ride or found me in the middle of it. And, this is the end. Time now to reflect on the past month and make some decisions about how I want to proceed from here.

What have I learned?

  • My Muse is a busy woman.  Writing every day has made me pay closer attention to my sources of inspiration. And she has made me a font overflowing with ideas.
  • Writing for an audience every day is invigorating for me.
  • Breaking thematically related ideas into a series is better than trying to link them all into one complex post.
  • I get a thrill seeing my blog traffic numbers go up – and they have gone up hugely.
  • I get deep personal satisfaction from conversation with commenters.
  • It is not in my nature to write short, simple posts.
  • People read my work. And are moved by it. And seek it out.
  • Writing for this blog every day forces me to spend too much time blogging and not enough of my writing time on my fiction.
  • I have seen some patterns of topics and headline styles that seem to correlate with higher traffic.
  • Combining daily writing for myself and blogging every day has led me to writing about deeper and more personal issues.

What Now?

  • No more blogging on the weekends. My weekend writing time all goes back to my novel.
  • I do plan to write A-Z improvisational poems about InterPlay for  A More Playful Life. However, I am hereby giving myself permission to spread the posting of such poems over 2-3 months. I will be done before the kids are out of school for the summer.
  • In April, I plan to post to this blog on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We will see how that goes.

I want to thank the folks who put together NaBloPoMo for the inspiration.

For now, I am off to enjoy the rest of my weekend without blogging.

Cheers,

Kate

The Trouble with Passing for “Normal”: Especially for our Gifted Girls, Part II

Part of a series on truth-telling in life and art. See the first post, Dare to Be Yourself, here.

This post follows on from The Trouble with Passing for “Normal”: Especially for our Gifted Girls, Part I.

I started trying to pass for normal before I had any idea I was gifted. All I knew was that I was different and that different was bad. I have no memory of the beginning of the process. All I know is a story my parents tell, one that in retrospect shows a problem that nobody thought to address. For decades, this story has been told as an example of how clever I was. It is only now as an adult, going through the process of recognizing my own identity that I see it as a cautionary tale.

I was born in England and attended early school there. My father took a sabbatical in the U.S. when I was 5 and I started Kindergarten. I was one of two students who entered Kindergarten already reading and my only memory from that year is of the two of us lying on the floor by the coat cubbies reading while the other students learned the letters of the alphabet.

The story my father tells goes like this.

“Kate has always been a talker. Once she started, there was no stopping her. At the first parent-teacher conference in Kindergarten, we were shocked to learn that Kate never spoke up in class unless directly asked a question by the teacher. She was still talking up a storm at home. ” Pause, accompanied by facial expression conveying confusion. “The next time we met with her teacher, it was a different story. Kate was talking at school the way she talked at home – but in an American accent. She had waited to talk until she had mastered the local dialect.”

I was 5 and I was hiding myself to fit in. It is a habit I am still trying to break.

As a teenager, the disconnect between my deep truths, the truths I let myself be aware of, and the facade I was presenting to the outside world became unmanageable and I suffered an existential crisis. In the midst of that crisis, I found the ground of my being, and moved forward, but it certainly looked like all was lost for some time.

If my life were a novel, that crisis would have been the final turning point where I rallied and strode forward into the fight that would lead to the novel’s resolution. But life is messier than art. In life, the protagonist doesn’t always make the choice to fight. And, resolution is not assurred. But, that turning point is the place in my memories that I need to access in order to write about the descent into deep crisis that will push my protagonist into change.

The Trouble with Passing for “Normal”: Especially for our Gifted Girls, Part I

Part of a series on truth-telling in life and art. See the first post, Dare to Be Yourself, here.

“Passing” is a term from the history of racial discrimination in the post Civil-War United States. At the end of this post is a little more information about that context. I apologize in advance to anyone who thinks I am being insensitive to the history of the word in using it in the context of this post. 

Gifted girls face enormous pressure to be more average than they are. Because giftedness is not a visible difference from the norm, they have the option to do this.

“Because of their enhanced ability to perceive social cues and their early conditioning about the critical importance of social acceptance, gifted girls are much more adept than gifted boys at imitation….They fit in by pretending to be less capable than they really are, disappearing into the crowd.” – Linda Silverman, Counseling the Gifted and Talented

This leads to under-identification of the giftedness in girls:

“By the age of 9, highly gifted children may hit the ceiling of the tests, and gifted girls may be socialized to hide their abilities.  Unless they are absolutely certain they are right, gifted girls are often unwilling to guess, which lowers their IQ scores.”Linda Silverman, What We have Learned About Gifted Children

Highly gifted teens who suffer existential depression are at an unacceptably high risk for suicide and are adept at hiding their troubles from everybody. Because these teens often present as highly successful, they are very hard to help once they have started suffering. They have also generally learned to distrust adults and are suspicious of proffered help. Prevention is key in helping these children. And that means identifying them early and helping them see their own true colours. And, we must listen to them and take them seriously.

“Gifted people often adjust what they say so that they will be accepted. They sometimes feel that other people do not take them seriously. This can lead to not trusting themselves. Careful listening can also be a lifeline. It can convince children that there is someone who thinks that they are valuable and worth understanding.” Betty Meckstroth

**A Note About Passing

In American usage, “passing” without further reference to what one is passing as refers specifically to light-skinned black people assimilating into the white community to avoid racial discrimination. When explicit discrimination was law, any traceable mixed-ancestry qualified a person as coloured. This meant that a sizable portion of people legally identified as coloured could “pass” for white if they left the communities where their family history was known. What I know of the psychological experience of passing in this context comes from literature, in particular two books I read in my law school class on the legal regulation of intimate interracial relationships, Passing, by Nella Larson and Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy who Discovered He was Black, by Gregory Howard Williams.

Passing involved isolating oneself from one’s family, denying one’s ancestry, and constantly living in fear of being found out. For some people, it was the better of two evils, but it was an awful way to live.

Sneaky-Deep: Easing Into Truth

Part of a series on truth-telling in life and art. See the first post, Dare to Be Yourself, here.

My experience of InterPlay went a little like this:

  • InterPlay is fun, a little weird, maybe, but definitely fun.
  • Oh, shit. I didn’t mean to talk about that. InterPlay is scary.
  • Oh, boy, I really needed to talk about that. InterPlay changed my life.

See how the deep work slipped in there surrounded by a lot of fun. Phil Porter and Cynthia Winton-Henry, the founders of InterPlay, talk of the practice of InterPlay as sneaky-deep. What they have developed is a body-wisdom system that eases people into connecting with their whole selves, including the parts of themselves that they shove back into the recesses of their psyches. It is a very gentle practice, and because it is so gentle, it can seduce people into touching deep material. It is not therapy, but it can be very therapeutic. And, because of the way it is taught and led, workshop participants can choose how deeply they want to play.

But, if you want to play deeply, the opportunity is always there.

My entire life has been a journey to understand myself. When I found InterPlay, I immediately started using it to consciously explore myself and the nature of my experience as a physical being. I have conditioned myself to play deeply.

Here’s a little story.

Once upon a time, my husband and I decided we would move our family to a foreign country, away from all our friends and family. We would give up on giving our only son a sibling and start a new life for the three of us without regrets. My husband got a job in the new land. We sold our house and made arrangements to rent a temporary place in the new country while we looked for a new house. We had not only a dream, but a plan and a budget. My husband started the new job from afar and we sold our house.

And then, before we moved, but after we were committed, plans changed. I was pregnant. Ok, that had been part of the old plan. We could adjust. With twins. Okay, this is tough, but we’ll get through. Oops, sorry we missed a baby, that would be triplets.

If you imagine that I flipped out at this point, you would be wrong. I went into shock.

6 months later, I was living in a foreign country and had three babies in the hospital and a traumatized older child at home. Still in shock.

6 months later, I was still in shock.

But, somewhere in there I had enough sense to know that I needed to pull myself into my new reality. So, I took advantage of the fact that I had completely failed to get any of the babies to breastfeed and left them with my husband, my mother, and the nanny for a weekend of InterPlay.

I swore going into the weekend that I was sick of my whole life being about the babies and I wasn’t going to bring them up while I was gone. Which shows how deeply detached from myself I was.

The first thing we did was completely non-verbal. I danced, letting my body move without words or thought according to my impulses. I felt great.

The second thing was a little exercise called babbling. People pair off and take turns talking for 30 seconds or so about or in response to a word provided by the leader. In one of the rounds of babbling with my first partner, we were asked to talk about our kitchens. Now, having done the leadership training, I know that this is a sneaky-deep topic. It sounds innocuous, but it gets to the heart of a lot of people’s lives.

In my case, my kitchen was a literal representation of everything that was wrong with my life. I hated that kitchen until we moved out of that house last month. We had left a gourmet kitchen and moved into a house that although otherwise well suited to infant triplets had a crappy kitchen. Until the trio gave up bottles, the counter-space was entirely covered with bottles drying and slow cookers with warm water ready to heat bottles. The table was displaced from any sensible place because there needed to be room for three high chairs, and the entire space was heavily gated in preparation for triplets on the move.

When I was asked to describe my kitchen, I could have described the kitchen underneath all the baby stuff, but the truth was I had never really talked about the baby stuff with any depth and my body knew it needed to let some of those stories out. So, I spoke about the bottles. Not about the rest of it, I only had 30 seconds after all. And, having that limited framework made it okay to talk about. I wasn’t going to be overwhelmed by everything that had happened over the previous year because there wasn’t time to bring it up. But, 30 seconds of cracking open the door of my experience and seeing what was in there was safe.

Eventually, the focus of my weekend became about me embracing my new life. I had already been doing everything I needed to do to make sure the children were cared for, but InterPlay helped me start caring for myself as well.

Sneaky-deep stuff.

I just went to have fun. I came back more whole.

InterPlay is like that.

Normal vs. Happy

Part of a series on truth-telling in life and art. See the first post, Dare to Be Yourself, here.

It’s for anyone interested in what happens at the frontiers of common-sense. Do you stay safe or do you follow your heart?

Jeanette Winterson, taking about her book Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Yesterday, I discovered my favourite living author, Jeanette Winterson, has a new memoir out entitled Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal?. After a moment of regret that my life no longer provides me advance notice of important developments in art and culture – a truth that has been a way of life for a decade, so I need to just need to get over it – I laughed.

What a perfect title for this series of blog posts on truth-telling in life and art. I wish I had thought of it.

Winterson’s first book, the one that put her on the literary map, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, is a fiction based in the truths of her childhood. Her latest appears to cover much of the same material. I am fascinated by the mere fact that Winterson wrote a memoir dealing with the same material. What needed to be said in a non-fictional form? Or has her life changed so much that she no longer sees the past the same way?

Her writing has always struck me as deeply truthful, cutting to the heart of her experience. Even in her less mature work, she wrestles with questions of identity (at least in what she calls her real books). Having written a fictional work based on her childhood, what made Winterson write the memoir? I am curious and will certainly be reading the book.

However, it is the title itself that I find most compelling, at least today. It sums up a core dilemma facing people who can pass for normal.

As a teenager, I had a denim jacket covered with buttons. One of them asked “Why be Normal?” If you had asked me then, I would have told you conformity sucked, that normal was for drones not individuals. The truth is, I wore it on my jacket because I wanted to believe it. I wanted to think that throwing off the constraint of trying to be normal would be okay. But, I wasn’t sure. I had a vague instinct that trying to be normal was a questionable act, but I believed I would be happy if only I were normal.

It was decades before I would truly see how deeply that wish to be normal had wounded me.

But hey, “Why be happy when you could be normal?”

Coming up in this series: passing, contemporary taboos, sneaky deep truth-telling, and more

Dare to Be Yourself

This is the beginning of a series examining the power of truth-telling in life and art.

“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”

May Sarton

Do you hide parts of yourself, locking them up inside away from the world?

Do you keep them hidden out of fear, out of a sense that they are nobody’s business but your own, out of shame, or because you don’t even see them?

What would it be like to share them?

I have been explicitly thinking about the things we don’t talk about ever since seeing the title of Azar Nafisi’s second memoir, Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories.

There is a power in claiming our experience as true and sharing it. Not only for ourselves, but for each other.

Parker Palmer, in his article Now I Become Myself, excerpted from his book Let Your Life Speak, wrote, “It is a strange gift, this birthright gift of self. Accepting it turns out to be even more demanding than attempting to become someone else.” He goes on to point out that, “In families, schools, workplaces, and religious communities, we are trained away from true self toward images of acceptability; under social pressures like racism and sexism our original shape is deformed beyond recognition; and we ourselves, driven by fear, too often betray true self to gain the approval of others.”

One of the ways we betray ourselves is by keeping silent about our experiences.

And, one of the ways that we redeem ourselves is by bringing those secrets into the light.

If we dare to be ourselves, we set ourselves up for our own mental health. But more than that, by revealing our weaknesses and our struggles, we allow other people to see our humanity, to be touched by our stories, and to take healing power from our stories.

In this series, I will be reflecting on both the things that I have kept silent about and on the relationship between truth-telling and art. I hope you will join me.

You Are What Catches Your Attention

A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament.

Oscar Wilde

What catches your eye is not the same as what catches my eye. We may walk the same paths, but we will not see the same things. Especially when it comes to the details upon which an artist builds a work, we miss what others see and see what others miss.

What I choose to take picture of reveals my viewpoint. Here is some of what I have noticed in March.

This image seemed to capture the transitions I am walking through.

These bricks struck me as related to the work of Mark Rothko.

"The Awakening" by J. Seward Johnson JR at National Harbor, MD shows several segments of a buried giant rising from the sand. This perspective doesn't capture Johnson's vision. But it grabbed my attention.

The shadows have been striking in the Summer-hot days of this early Spring.

More shadows.

What catches your attention?

Performance Poetry and the Politics of the Marginalized

WARNING

Unlike most of what I write, this is highly political. If you don’t want to go there, stop reading now.

There is a war on women being waged in the U.S. and women are losing.

If you haven’t been paying attention, politicians are using doctors to abuse women in the name of protecting life. Laws that require unnecessary medical procedures or pyschologically harmful processes and laws that protect doctors who lie to their patients are already are on the books or being debated in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arizona, Virginia, Tennessee, and more. These are more direct attacks on women than the debate about insurance coverage of contraception because they avoid the issues of separation of church and state.

I have not found a way to express the depths of my outrage.

But, performance poets are doing what I have not managed. The combination of rhetorical skill, poetic attention, and persuasive public speaking is hard to beat. This video of Lauren Zuniga’s To the Oklahoma Lawmakers: a poem crossed my path earlier this week. And, I felt a need to pass it on.

The only possibly positive thing I see coming out of this is a class of women who have complacently assumed that feminism had succeed and was irrelevant are realizing how very wrong they were.

Improv v. First Draft

For the A to Z Blogging challenge over at A More Playful Life, I have a plan and a decision to make.

Within two days of signing up for the challenge, I had titles for all 26 posts: all related to InterPlay practices and principles or concepts that I connected to through InterPlay. But, I ended up moving instead of writing the actual posts, so now I have a long list of titles and a head full of ideas.

I don’t have time to write thoughtful posts for all 26 days. My novel is too important.

On the other hand, I have been wanting to articulate InterPlay in my own words for years. I have started doing that on this blog and in other places, but I still feel there is a lot to do.

So, I have decided to write poetry about the topics: short pieces of the “A is for Affirm, B is for Body Wisdom…” variety in the style of an ABC primer.

In order to get them up rapidly, and in the spirit of InterPlay, my thought is to write them improvisationally and not revise.

But, the idea of having written words in a public forum that I have not revised freaks me out a bit. One of the beauties of improvised spoken words is that they disappear on speaking.

So, I am debating whether I should let the improvised texts sit out on the website unrevised or plan on revising them.

What do you think?

Facing the Blank Page, With Improvisation

What do you do when you have a blogging deadline and haven’t even picked a topic?

Stan Stewart has a lovely piece on exactly this moment, writing about having nothing to say. What I love about Stan’s piece is that he demonstrates that by writing about having nothing to say, one discovers that one has written.

By working despite his lack of inspiration when he wrote his piece, I have no doubt Stan kept up his writing momentum and had more to say the next time he sat down to write. Why do I have no doubts? Because creativity is like that.

By staying is his moment of non-inspiration, Stan gave himself a gift.

  • He did a little research: scanning other people’s suggestions of topics for blog posts. Although nothing “grabbed him” at that moment, he was filling his well of ideas from which to draw next time.
  • He reviewed his motivation to write. Reconnecting with the why of his writing will have stimulated unconscious processes that would eventually produce inspiration.
  • He reviewed the themes and topics of his blog. This will have prompted his subconscious to mull on these topics, possibly building connections between them. Once again, Stan was adding grist to the mill for future work.
  • He noticed his present circumstances. Paying attention to the world within and around us is at the heart of having something to say. Instead of running from the state of not-knowing, we can examine our experience, which then gives us something to reflect on, and that reflection will likely lead to having something to say.
  • Finally, Stan demonstrated his power to choose how to respond to his experience. So often, when our muse is hiding, we think we are powerless to find her, but it is not true. We can tickle her, drawing her to the realm of consciousness by offering her tempting tidbits, images to look at, food for thought,  and questions to ponder.

Stan is an improvisational artist. He specializes in creating something from nothing in front of an audience without revision. His article shows us a way to approach writing when we feel no inspiration but the audience is waiting.

Stan is also a fellow InterPlayer, and my last two points about noticing and choosing how to respond are highly influenced by my training as an InterPlay leader.

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