Thanks, Lisa Borja, for inviting me to take part in Blog Hop. (Click on Lisa’s name to see her blog–Meditative Dishwashing. It’s great.)
Blog Hop Rules: Answer the four questions below, link back to the person who invited you, and link to the people who will be posting the following Monday.
My answers follow:
The passage of time can radically alter a story. A new place becomes home, hardship fades from memory, brains rewire and the trauma of a head injury, chased with a cancer diagnosis, becomes a gift. –expert from an earlier post, Garage Sweet Garage.
Months before my two kid goats arrived, I received the news of a malignant melanoma diagnosis from a doctor at a hospital that I had visited for the first time just the week before–to have a mole removed from my right lower leg. I walked into his office expecting to leave with my stitches removed and relief as the parting theme. Instead, I walked away with a fuzzy head, a few sketchy notes, and the stitches still in my leg, an open chapter in the story of stage II cancer.
My current writing tells two stories in real time: the story of caring for goats, and the story of healing from the Melanoma. It chronicles how the two stories, the goat story and the Cancer story, over time, have become one.
What am I working on?
I’m doing weekly posts in my blog—The Expert Within. And when I say “weekly” posts, please interpret that in the loosest possible way. I say it with all the best intentions of making that a reality one day. Writing a blog—even one which has what Google Analytics constantly reminds me is just a handful of followers–helps me to write in a more committed way. The mere idea of a reader pool reins me in from a rangy series of haphazard journal posts to something more buttoned up; motivating me to correct grammar, and say something that others might occasionally find useful. But the truth is, what I’m doing has a journal-like quality; it’s helping me to make my way through, and make sense of, a confusing time.
I have a good hunch that Cancer came as a way to shake me out of my self-protective ways. I was accustomed to locking all the doors of my emotional house. The melanoma made me realize that the scary robber-slash-monster was already inside; there was no sense of security in those locked doors, anymore. What was needed now was fearless self-inquiry; writing about it helps me to sort things out.
Why do I write what I write?
In working with the melanoma, I identified (on a gut hunch) two things that I could work with to hasten my recovery: diet, and emotions.
The diet part was obvious, if not always easy. I mostly tackled that first, with a few things thrown in about thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, and how the wrong ones can mess with your health. And then I wrote about it.
At first I described my process in a more serious way, citing research I had read on cancer and personality; and cancer and diet.
Then, as I stood face to face with what, in my psyche, needed looking at, I wrote about that.. Figuring out what might need adjusting is not so much an analysis, as an excavation. I’m going down through the layers to see what is there below my level of consciousness. Suddenly, I realize things that are not as easy to share. I tether the part of me who doesn’t want to be judged and do it anyway.
People in my writers group are very supportive. After meeting with this group for a year, I learned to read them: their silences, the way they’d study the little pattern on the library table if they didn’t like something, or lean in and look at me from the length of it if they did. Through careful interpretation of the body language and verbal gaps, I gathered that all the emotional “talk” was a little dry and boring. Emotions, Cancer, blah blah blah. You know.
Then, one of the writers suggested I consider writing about the goats living in my garage. He thought that goats would be more interesting than paragraph after paragraph of feelings-talk, I guess. I tried out the idea of using goats and their crazy-making ways as a metaphor for emotional growth; this seemed to hit the sweet spot. I took a leap of faith and submitted one of my posts to Upwave, after asking my friend, Jo Wagner, for editing help. To my surprise, it was published.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Declaring a genre is for those who actually know the difference between (insert the names of genres here—I can’t think of any.) I’ve heard genre talk in my writers group, but have no context for understanding it. I just read one memoir called Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne LaMott. Such a funny and poignant take on Christianity. Very loose in style. Not necessarily needing to make specific points on spirituality; just her story of wrestling with it.
Every time I read something that I love (Like that Anne LaMott book), I adjust my approach a little. So there’s not yet enough consistency in my blog writing to pinpoint who it’s for or what it’s about. One thing: if someone else, feeling as alone as I felt after the head injury and in working though the cancer diagnosis, benefits, I’ll be thrilled.
How does my writing process work?
In the morning, when I’m drinking tea or meditating, ideas come to me and I try and capture them.
I have been following the Oprah and Chopra guided meditations over the past 16 days, because in their intros, Deepak is nice enough to say that I already possess the things I desire. Ideas come forward and I pause the narrative over and over. At 14.21 minutes, at 14.33, then again at 15.01…I write the ideas rapid-fire on a laptop post-it note. When I hit play again, the electronic music swells and the vocals float in. I see, in my mind’s eye, Oprah and Chopra shaking their heads. This is not how meditation is supposed to go, they are thinking in tandem.
Next Monday’s bloggers are two wonderful writers: Peter Hogenkamp and young Lief Beaver. Peter is at http://www.peterhogenkamp.com and is twitter handle is @phogenkampVT. Lief is at http://beverblog2008laif.