And climb the stairs to the beach...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

October 30, 2010

Morning Folks! I have been silent for a long while and I do apologize. No excuse, inspiration and opportunity never seemed to line up properly.

I recently finished up a fabulous writing class at UTC (University of Tenn, Chatt). It was a class on Proprioceptive Writing, something I'd never heard of before I read about it in the course brochure. Perhaps some of you have heard of it. I know my friend Kitty has. It is kind of hard to describe unless you know where the term originated.

As I understand it, Proprioception is what we all have that allows us to know where the parts of our bodies are in relation to each other. For example, we know that our hands are at the ends of our arms, but it is also what makes us aware that we are upright and what allows us to right ourselves if we lose our balance. It is a connection between the mind and our body in motion or at rest. It allows us to grasp the glass on the table without thinking about it. We trust that our hand will get to the glass and when it does, it will know the right amount of pressure with which to grasp it.

Anyway, in this writing practice it's about training and then trusting the mind to get to the heart and connecting the two. It is very therapeutic in that you dig down into the story by asking the Proprioceptive Question (PQ) over and over again. "What did I mean by ___? For example, if I write "It is a great day today" and I ask the PQ "What do I mean by great?" I might say it is sunny and I am feeling fabulous because the root canal I had on Thursday isn't causing me any pain. The more you ask the question, the deeper you go. The practice is done in 25 minutes sessions, called "Writes". You light a candle and put on Baroque music and just start writing on blank unlined paper. It is amazing where these Writes took me. In our class we had to read them out loud after we finished them. Fellow students were not allowed to comment or judge in any way. The instructor commented only on suggestions as to where we might go from there or if we were going deep enough into some story. Never any comment about the writing or language. Just about how we could get deeper into it or that we were "getting" the idea of PW. The idea is to find a precipice moment in your life or within a story and figure out how you felt before it or after it. Get inside it and remember who you were and what you felt at the time, always turning toward it, emotions recollected in tranquility.

It was fascinating.

I loved it and will take another class with this instructor if I get the chance. It's a great way to get warmed up to write, and like trusting your hand when it reaches for the glass, you have to trust that you will get to the real nuts and bolts of a story regardless of how badly something is crafted. Here is a sample of one Write. I hope Dad doesn't mind that I included him because it's a little personal, but don't forget, it was written from a 5 year old's perspective. Many of the Writes my classmates and I did were about our families of origin. It's inescapable.

Looking at home movies from 1956, my brother Chuck's first day of first grade, I zero in on the black eye that I can still feel. What do I mean by "I can still feel?" Maybe it's because the other night in the dark on the way to the bathroom I walked into the armoire door that I had left open and my brow bone still hurts as I rest my head on my hand while I write this.

That movie shows me looking quite cute, I think, in my pixie haircut and green knitted sweater, made by Grandma Waters, the B Grandmother. What do I mean by "B" grandmother? Anyone with two grandmothers has an A and a B Grandmother. My other grandmother was clearly the most important female in my life and was the A Grandmother. Grandma Waters was the only one who knew how to knit, though.

But, the black eye I had gotten the night before this movie was taken during a game of Blindman's Bluff, something I found hard to say back then. It was a tongue twister and it made my Dad laugh when I mispronounced it. But that game of Blindman's Bluff was one of those wonderful memories of my Dad playing with us, when it was just the two of us: Chuckie and Suzie. Sisters Cindy and Becky hadn't yet come on the scene.

Mom wasn't in the living room with us. I think Dad was supposed to be keeping us occupied while she did something in the kitchen. Maybe she was making my brother's lunch for his first day of school. Why do I think that? I guess because it was strange for us to be "occupied" with Dad after supper. Usually, he'd read the paper or something and we'd occupy ourselves. I don't remember my mother after supper. Ever.

This particular night, Dad took off his necktie and tied it around my head, covering my eyes, spun me around a couple of times to disorient me and set me off to find my brother. I took off toward his voice and walked right in to the corner of the console table. Bang! Five years old and exactly the same height as that table.

I hated that it happened. What do I mean by that? I hated that it ended the game. I remember that it hurt, but I was more disappointed that it ended the game, the mood, the fun. What do I mean by disappointed? My Dad was a celebrity in my eyes and I felt so special when he spent time with us. What do I mean by a celebrity? He worked long hours and we didn't see him as often as we would have liked, but he was also the handsome prince who rescued me from the wicked queen. He was fun, and though it was a rare treat, when we were together like this there was always laughter until my mother came into the room. What do I mean by that? Well, of course I cried because my eye did hurt and my mother came flying into the living room to see what happened and she just lit into my Dad.

"I told you not to play that game with those kids!" she screamed. "Now look what you've done!" I actually thought there was something wrong with Blindman's Bluff because he was in so much trouble for having played it with us. What do I mean by "something wrong"? I thought it was sinful, I guess. My mother used to say that gambling was a sin and was not allowed in our home and I just thought card games were fun. I think at that moment I was a little confused about why Blindman's Bluff was prohibited, never thinking it was dangerous, really. 

That was the first time I remember defending my Dad against my mother's cruel remarks. What do I mean by that? My mother often angrily berated him in front of us and he said very little in his own defense. That night, I remember speaking up and  insisting that it wasn't his fault;  that I walked into the table myself and my mother shouldn't blame him. But, she ignored me and continued to yell at my Dad while he held ice on my head.

I just wanted to console him and let him know that it was okay and I wasn't blaming him at all. I guess I frequently put the feelings of others ahead of my own in that way when I was growing up. It was hard to feel anything when a mother's feelings had to be considered first. What do I mean by that? My mother raged much of her life, leaving no room for my feelings. My energy went into diffusing situations and redirecting her wrath away from her victims: back then, my Dad or older brother Chuck. I wonder why I ended up taking on that role? What do I mean by that? I always felt such sympathy for my Dad. He would try to kid with Mom and twirl her around dancing to a song on the radio and she'd push him away, angry that she'd been interrupted from whatever she'd been doing. Or he'd be singing with us and she'd complain that he should be taking out the trash or something. Poor guy. He was just trying to make things fun. But it was as though she resented any fun he would be having, especially with us, and it made me want to cry.

And remembering that night of Blindman's Bluff makes me smile, of course, but it reminds me of those times I felt I needed to protect my Dad from my own Mother and it makes me want to cry today still.

After I read this Write out loud, the instructor actually told me it was "wonderful", which made me blush a little. Then she asked 'why do we all take on roles in our families and why do we all as children feel we have to protect our parents or other adults in our lives?' This instructor was so good because she gave us little suggestions about future Writes along the same lines or small details she thought we should explore more. But also because her comments made us all realize that our stories are all unique yet the same. The human experience is just. fascinating.

So, see, it was therapy! And at only $150 for 18 hours it was a bargain!

Have a great week and why not try to do your own "Write". You never know where it will take you.


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