The Tense Silence of Our Youth

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Instead of Hansel and Gretel, we have been Hannah and Gerta perhaps – two who find themselves lost in the great forest while the breadcrumbs meant to indicate a way home provide nourishment for ever watchful crows.

There have been times we both felt this way. Some of them have been simultaneous.

This state of being included some of our greatest obstacles, not only in writing but in day-to-day living. Hard to go forward when we’re looking back.

Struggles though these times have been keenly disheartening, but reminders from family and friends that everything is relative often sustains us.

Or turning around from running away to face the fear, the discomfort, the pain until it has nothing more to say, no more to deliver.

Like a string of pearls reversing into velvet black time, these difficulties have also formed a radiant calm and beauty, encouraging reflection.

Through all of this, we’ve managed to accomplish what once seemed impossible.

We’re still at it.

Awareness of the Cue

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A day we couldn’t work brought a new perspective.

 

We both carry a sense of guilt when we can’t do something we’d like to accomplish. No matter that it may stem from the fact that our bodies won’t comply or we’re too distracted by pain, fog, sensory overload, and/or the fear that it will continue to be ‘this way.’ The thing for us to remember is that these situations turn out, time and time again, to be a kind of soil from which grows meaningful writing, revision, or an entire reframing of that part of the story.

 

Every hesitation, need for self-care, change of plans, detour – every hiccup along the way – is an opportunity. The longer we dwell on potential negative impacts, like time lost, the more time we spend forgetting the benefits. These come from the cause and effects which are rarely within our sole conscious control.

 

We are learning – sometimes quickly, sometimes after repeated cueing experiences. Awareness of these cues can be a great help whether we are writing or revising. They try to tell us: “Do not be so hard on yourself. Take your speck of sand and make from it your pearl.”

 

For example, we lost the last nineteen chapters of the book. Sort of…

 

We recently finished the book and returned to the first chapter of the last nineteen (at that point it would’ve been Chapter 63) to do some revision work. We had the clever idea to do all of this work in one Word document which would later be added into Scrivener ™ in chapter-sized segments.

 

The story goes something like this…

 

Once upon a time, we had an extremely productive day. One of those in-the-flow, amazing days. Unfortunately, we had an issue which shut down Word ™ but didn’t save our document correctly. We lost the entire last day’s hours of writing and all of the revision, but in its place after a brief pity party, we came up with back story and another twist we wouldn’t have otherwise conceived.

 

One key was to begin writing again the instant we discovered – and accepted the reality – that this had actually occurred. Much of the work we’d done was still in our short term memory banks, though some things were irretrievably lost, which was okay.

 

When we’re in the midst of feeling unwell, we feel awful about what looks like waste. The minute we get back in the flow, we realize how much insight and creativity happened in the meanwhile.

 

Are there times when you are hard on yourself or times when you could see that an otherwise fallow time yielded fruit?

3… 2…1… Reentry

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We’ve been busy since we last saw you. We hope you’ve kept well and happy. You’ve been in our thoughts.

In the interim, we finished the first draft of our novel after a full year’s creative endeavor. We look forward to sharing snippets and scenes and in-betweens.

We’d like to pose questions and invitations for you to share your works as well.

We are now prepping for a month’s-long set of revision passes.

We find Janice Hardy’s suggestions invaluable as are James Scott Bell’s. The former suggested prepping the book by creating an editorial map with this format for each chapter. You could easily do it for each scene as well:

[SUMMARY

First line

Last line.

Revision Thoughts: ]

 

Here’s the link to Janice’s helpful resource: http://blog.janicehardy.com/2015/02/revison-prep-create-editorial-map.html

Next steps for us include an outline of the three acts and the main turning points within them.

~*~

We’ve missed this space and community. Bloggers everywhere have been in our thoughts. One good thing is we’ve been learning every day we’ve written.

Originally, we didn’t know how coauthoring would go with the two of us having different schedules, varying levels of pain, and the ever-burgeoning list of doctor appointments.

It wasn’t always easy, yet we persevered. We’re now looking for a way to celebrate our, ‘We did it!’ moment in time by reentering 2penthrupain. Please celebrate with us if you have a spare moment or two.

We know the blog is an essential part of what we’re trying to accomplish – touching base with other readers and writers.

We have a few new areas of interest coming up including finding a publisher. We were all set to go with a publishing company, but fortunately happened upon some unfortunate information. In the end because of our research, we decided not to sign their contract though it had been a slam dunk for the months leading up to the discoveries. Something kept us from actually signing the darn thing for quite a while.

Andrea took a month’s creative writing course with prompts. She’s been producing some wonderful stories on a near daily basis…. The rest were poems of equally inspiring innovation. She found the course both eye-opening and mind-stretching.

In our next post we will feature one of her short stories.

The course was offered through Creative Writing Now with Nancy Strauss.

She’s currently offering a free 3 Day Course on Endless Story Ideas. Here is the link.

http://www.creative-writing-now.com/free-online-writing-courses.html

We look forward to diving back in. Thank you for your continued support. We’d love to hear from you.

Meningitis Mind Sentences

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Throughout my early life I wrote my pain on paper, and it seemed to help. I wasn’t conscious that I was dealing with it that way until an event in my early twenties.

One morning I woke up to get ready for work, and fell into my closet. Next I drove my little blue Fiat to work as if I was underwater, falling to the asphalt, eventually arriving bloodied and confused in the office.

I agreed to go to the hospital at the urging of my neurologist, who was concerned about these symptoms along with the intensity of my headaches and the fact that my naturopath had seen some unusual activity behind my eyes.

They took spinal fluid to rule out the most dangerous potential cause of these anomalies. My neurologist thought it unlikely but better to be safe.

It turned out to be true. I had spinal meningitis, and the next people I saw wore outfits akin to space suits. I stayed a month, and none of the doctors I saw could answer my simple questions: Will I live through this? Will I once again be able to complete sentences and think as well as I once did?

It’s difficult to describe the level of completely useless fear I felt when one after another answered, “We don’t know yet.”

At first, I was not allowed to sit up or stand. I had to do everything lying down. I would eat by rolling over onto my side carefully and using a straw. Though I was in the perfect posture for it, the one thing I couldn’t do was sleep. People entered hourly. There were lights, sounds, and people crying in the night. And there was pain and fear.

All the while I wrote in my mind. Affected cognitively, I couldn’t do much, but I constantly repeated the mantra I had been given by my meditation teacher. Over and over again, I would not only say it, but see it in my mind’s eye. I clung to those words like the lifeline they were. They kept me from drowning in my own fear.

Later, I continued, interspersing thoughts of purpose. “What did I want to do with my life when I was well again?” It took a long time for me to complete thoughts of any complexity, but I was gradually certain I would like to be a naturopath, one of those kind people who spent so much time to help me figure out what was wrong after a slew of doctors told me it was everything from an ear infection to my imagination. I will be a naturopath, I thought, and I asked my nurse for help sending away for information long before the eras of laptops, wifi, and cell phones. Snail mail was IT, baby.

While I waited to hear, I started to sit up again. I responded to cards with a line or two of text and a scribbled picture of the sun, heart, or a flower.

I wrote one line of feelings over and over until I thought of another line to repeat. They soothed my imaginings of the future.

I found out that I needed to do something else to fund the years of study it would take to become a naturopath. I thought I’d like to teach.

All this came together through thoughts that were pinned down to paper so they wouldn’t fly off into the stratosphere before completion. Slowly, I learned to complete sentences again. I applied to schools and wrote their essays with persistence. I struggled to stand and balance my body, and in a month’s time live outside of a hospital. I was a lucky girl who lived.

I did not become a naturopath, but I did become a teacher. I worked at it lovingly for a decade and a half.

Though I will always live with remnants meningitis left in my body, I know I would not be the person I am grateful to be today were it not for that experience and the time spent with myself, talking, whispering, and writing through the pain.

Climbing the Hill of Hope

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9/21/2014

We’ve been making great strides with the book lately.   After stopping for a while to work on other projects that needed our attention, we are back in the full swing of things. This is when I feel my best and see my future a little brighter. It doesn’t mean that in ‘the here and now,’ I physically feel well, but it greatly helps my mental state. When I/we are working on the book and it’s flowing, I get a glimpse of everything I want to happen, who I want to become. I imagine myself completely well, physically and mentally. I visualize all of the traveling we will be doing to promote her and it gets me excited. I see the book cover so clearly and can feel it in my hands. I am in the moment, turning each and every brand new page.

When it must sit by the wayside, I have to admit, I’m in a lower place. I do my best to rally, but in order for me to fully bring myself back, I need to be working on our story.

The below was written during a break we had to take from the book. It makes sense I was feeling the way I felt below. I am hopeful for my future, I just have to keep the book alive in myself and on paper…

I expect a full recovery!

[7/24/2014]

I got up and went to Physical Therapy again. It was too strenuous the first day and I couldn’t get out of bed the day after, so he had to lessen the intensity. He asked me to remember how I felt later today since I forgot how I felt during the day of the first session.

Well I’ll remember how I felt all right. My back is making sure of that. It went out on me as I was getting on the table for an MRI. Oh what fun trying to keep my head from moving for the half hour MRI while my back is spasming all over the place. Yes I can definitely tell him how the rest of my day was. I don’t think I’ll forget this time.

I wasn’t even thinking of being claustrophobic in the machine until the tech said “we’ll be putting you in to about your waist” It was then that I started to panic. I knew I had to just get through it without freaking out. I started counting and breathing. Just kept my eyes shut and pretended I wasn’t in a coffin.

Then I went for a massage since I didn’t want to be miserable for the next few days of pain my back would have in store for me. It usually helps but this time the guy was giving me one of the worst chair massages I’ve had. It was so disconnected and not soothing at all. He actually answered the phone a few times while one hand was still working on me. It was more comical than annoying at that point. I tried not to get upset about it. That would definitely not help the ounce of relaxation I was trying to absorb. Not sure if it helped or not. Trying not to move around too much.

Feeling a bit disconnected myself today. I guess that’s why I got massagus interruptus guy. Makes sense. I just have to say “tomorrow will be a better day.”

I got some troubling news today. Luckily it’s not health related so I am very grateful. Sure I cried for a bit. Spoke to my sister and my mom. It helped. I could really go off the deep end about it but I am trying to use my new skills and tell myself “all is well” and I really do believe it. I just have to keep moving forward and not give up. Whatever happens, it will all be okay. It’s a huge improvement I must say. In the past, I would have probably cried all night, curled up in a ball, unable to move. Instead I decided to sit and write about it. Sure, it’s not the best thing I’ve written, it easily could be the worst thing I’ve written, but at least I’m writing.

As time goes on, I will get my sense of humor back. It comes and goes. I’ve been waiting over a year to feel like myself again. I certainly don’t want this to be the personality I’ve settled into, but I know it’s a huge transitional time for me. One step at a time. I know I’ll be back…..

[~Andrea]

There is a special focus on peace this weekend, Saturday night and all day Sunday.

May it extend into forever.

[~Leslie]

 

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Pain and/or Suffering: Compassion and Choices

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September 16, 2014

We’d like to communicate through our blog what it’s like for us to be disabled, in pain, and yet still try our best to be productive, compassionate, and creative members of society. I don’t think we’ve addressed this head on yet, so today seems like a perfect day to begin.

August 9, 2014   [original date]

Both of us are in poor physical and cognitive states today. [It feels so heavy and difficult to write and reread that. It makes us not want to feel this way all the more, hoping that it won’t always be this way. Putting it out here, writing it down confirms how much it sucks.]

This is what makes it hard to concentrate, stay focused, access creativity, while dizziness and double vision make it hard to walk a straight line or see what it is we’re attempting to do, even if we’ve resigned ourselves to only doing a little bit today.

We’re sensitive to the fact that each day not used to write the novel and yes, the blog too, feels like wasted time. Intellectually, we can tell ourselves that this isn’t true. That somewhere underneath all the fog is a land where ideas are being served up every hour on the hour, percolating with other things we’ve already written down, and that it will later pop out in the perfect voice and word choice, furthering our plot and ideas forward.

Maybe this is the way the process goes. We often think it does… except on these kinds of days. Maybe it happens anyway and the suffering part is a howling wind blowing the ripples on top of the lake, leaving the bottom calm and undisturbed. We both like that idea, and maybe we’ll have the chance to test this little theory tomorrow or the day after – see what the internal artist has to show for itself.

~*~

So, what do we have to offer you today, gentle reader, as I struggle to write to the end of this post? I think it’s the difference between pain and suffering, a concept I read in the upcoming book title. I contemplate its intention along with my meditation practice: Meeting the Dragon: Ending Our Suffering By Entering Our Pain by Robert Augustus Masters.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FJAQP2S/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00FJAQP2S&linkCode=as2&tag=2penthrupainc-20&linkId=DTNZGH7BCBQYPLH3

One of the most important concepts, I feel, is that there is always a cognitive and emotional component to any physical pain… and most of the time vice versa. We can find ways to hold a conversation with ourselves to find out what magnetizes to the original, physical pain message that builds it into a mountain of suffering.

It is this connection and this conversation’s insights that can be gleaned from a number of actions: meditation as I mentioned, rapid writing to and from one’s self, role-playing with a trusted, safe, non-judgmental partner, or via the use of a tape or video recorder.

You may be surprised at what answers swim to the surface of your lake. Knowing is the beginning of change. And change can actually make the pain less. If it doesn’t go away, which I am most definitely not promising, at least there’s the possibility it can become manageable more of the time. There’s a new perspective.

It takes time and dedication, discipline and a sense of worthiness, but works regardless of how many times it becomes two steps forward and one step back. It has moved me forward, allowing the creative spirit some room to come forth.

For additional, hopefully helpful further reading on related topics: For the Time Being by Norman Fischer

I am definitely wishing those of you who are hurting the best of success in facing your pain. For those who’ve never had a day of pain in your life, I am delighted for you, and I hope it continues all of your days. However, there is a lot to be learned from this process, so should pain seek you out one day when you least expect it, hopefully you can remember that others have trod the path before you and unfurled themselves from the fetal position it often causes.

There are other aspects to this, such as communicating with your writing partner when you both feel ill and so forth, but that’s for another day.

Best wishes! [Leslie]