Unresectable

I don’t need a mnemonic device to remember you

You’re literally etched into the stone of my being

I couldn’t get rid of you if I tried

And believe me, I have, with all my might

Tried. To. Forget. You.

No priest could exorcise you from my soul

Nor surgeon excise you from my spirit

We are inextricably linked, now, forever

I have learned to grow around you

Like a tree around a stone.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: mnemonic

Slim Pickin’s

“Well, now, won’t that be a treat,” he muttered under his breath no no one in particular after Nester Johnson’s wife handed him an invite to her annual Hogs and Heifers party, turned and walked away with a little backwards glance and a coral-colored-lipsticked air kiss.

While he thoroughly felt compassion for her seeing as how she was married to one of the most foul men he’d met so far in this Godforsaken town, there was nothing short of J Lo or Madonna being headliner at the party that would ever make him willingly choose to attend.

And with that, he tossed the invite into the bin, put a fresh toothpick between his teeth and returned to wiping down the bar.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: treat

Risk Aversion*

I read my writing aloud in public for the first time two weeks ago.

I began this blog a year and a half ago as a way for me to begin to break the silence and shame I felt inside.

You see, I grew up in an environment that encouraged me to suppress my feelings and my true thoughts. In essence, I learned to hide my truth.

Because of things that had happened to me when I was young, I was afraid that to speak my truth would bring pain to others in my family. I needed their love, so I learned very early on to present a version of me that would be pleasing for them and others. It was literally a matter of survival, keeping my truth hidden.

Additionally, problems in our family were not acknowledged verbally for the most part. We pretended to each other they did not exist. If it was something that absolutely could not be hidden, there was a real strong pressure to keep the family problems secret, to keep them inside the home. I was not verbally warned not to seek help. But I knew it was considered dangerous.

So I learned to keep my true self buried deep inside, hidden far away from my family, and from the outside world.

I got so good at it, I lost touch with my own true self. I had hidden it so well, it became hidden from even myself.

I am a performer, so I need to be able to use my truth to reveal the truths of the characters I play. I learned to go deep within, but I found that as much as I loved bringing what I could to my work, there were internal tensions that made it very challenging. And so I began to embark on unraveling those tensions, to see what was underneath, to find more freedom and to expand my capacity to reveal through my work.

It has been an amazing process. I did not set out to, but I have ended up finding my self in the process. I’ve been making a deep excavation within, bringing out the remains into the light.

It has been excruciating at times, terrifying, wondrous, exquisite, mind-blowing, beautiful, sad beyond belief. But most of all, it has been a becoming whole.

In the process of finding me, I discovered that I wanted to be able to own and share my truth without fear or shame. So I started to practice doing so.

First in small, safe ways. To trusted people. Then, I began increasing the risk level, expanding my level of comfort by extending myself into the world in ever-widening circles.

This blog has been a hugely gratifying experience. It has been so important for me share my true internal experience, my real creativity, here. There have been times I have felt so fearful after hitting the publish button…it has felt so risky…what if someone in my family reads it? What will they think of me? If people know this or that, will they see me differently? Will they judge me, label me, only see me this way or that?

I realized that I was so afraid of only being seen for what has happened to me or what I have done, the mistakes I have made, or what I have NOT done or accomplished. I didn’t have a sense of being valuable just as I am, not what I do, did, will do, haven’t done.

The blog and posting has been stretching me in so many great ways. It has also helped me learn to let go of needing to be seen a certain way in order to feel valuable, safe or lovable.

What I did not expect was how amazing it would be to have people read and then reach out to share back. That has been and continues to be such a gift. (So thank you.)

And then, I had the opportunity to submit a piece I adapted from a blog post for an evening of work written by women on what it means to identify as a woman.

When I began writing this blog, I had never, ever intended to read my work anywhere, but there I was, sending it in, in hopes of being chosen, so I could share my work live, in person. (What?!)

When it was selected, I was ecstatic. And terrified.

Every childhood-conditioned muscle in my body was braced for trouble. Every old voice that wanted to keep me silent was working on my psyche: Who was I to think I had something of value to share? What if I upset people? What if someone was unhappy with what I had to say?

In the week before the event, I was questioning my sanity in having chosen to do it.(What was I thinking?! Why was I putting myself through this?!)

The fear and the voices continued right up until showtime and as the first readers read their work.

And then, my name was called. My turn. I gathered together my courage and began the long walk down the aisle, my heart pounding in my chest.

And then three steps from center stage, I suddenly felt something click inside. When I stepped into the light, I just knew in my bones that I was in the right place at the right time. I felt a sense of home inside. I felt warm. I felt safe.

What an amazing experience! It was an experiment, but it turns out I love sharing my words live, and also experiencing the words of the others involved. Who knew?

I am so grateful to whatever healing force inside me has been leading me on this journey to be free. It is a beautiful thing to break free of the shackles of one’s own past and to be able to freely express one’s own self.

*(Written 10/17/17, but I used a draft from Oct. 1 and didn’t realize I needed to change the date before publishing it! So here it remains, looking like I wrote it Oct. 1. But I promise I wrote it 10/17/17.)

Reposted in Response to The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: risky

Kinship

Through marriage, I now have a large Irish family.

This is a continually astonishing gift. I come from a comparatively small family which, as I wrote about in my former post “On Weddings,” has become even smaller over the thirteen years I have been with my boyfriend-turned-husband through a series of losses. It is now just my oldest brother and his wife and two kids, my three aunts, an uncle, four cousins and their spouses, four cousins once removed (my cousin’s kids,) and a few of my father’s cousins, and their kids-that-are-sort-of-like-cousins.

My Irish family is comprised of 8 siblings-in-law: 6 sisters-in-law and 2 brothers-in-law. I always wished for a sister. Now I have 6! Actually, I have even more than that, because the two brothers have wives, so that’s 8 Irish sisters-in-law (in addition to the incredible woman married to my brother.)

These women, my husband’s sisters and sisters-in-law, welcomed me into the family with such love and warmth. As did his brothers. And their 23 children! Yes, that’s right. There are 23 nieces and nephews. Add to that the children those nieces and nephews are now having. I think at this writing there are 17 grandnieces and nephews, and…wait for it…2 great-grandnieces! (We go over at least once a year for weddings!)

And that is just the immediate family. My husband and his siblings all have cousins who have spouses and they have children, and those children have children.)

I love my Irish family. I come from the midwest, from people who were of Protestant stock. My people are stoic, hold-your-cards-to-your-chest people. We get together in small batches of time. There is love, of course. But it’s, well, a bit more subdued. There’s not a lot of hugging. Storytelling and laughter, yes. Just in short spurts.

My Irish family? These people truly love being together. They gather for epic periods of time!

And any time they gather, it is certain that there will be the “sing-song” and “a bit of craic.” (Craic is a term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, by the way. Pronounced like “crack.”)

This entails each person taking attention to perform a song, or play an instrument (there’s alway one around it seems, spoons if nothing else.) Or recite a poem, in what they call recitations.

This reverence for the spoken or sung word goes way back in the Irish culture. It is truly important and meaningful part of their life. And the love of song! The stories told through song are passed from generation to generation. It seems a rite of passage for one of the “young ones” to start singing or reciting a “piece” that then becomes known as their “party piece.”

At first, these sessions (and they truly are sessions — they often last 10 or so hours, literally into the early morning) were totally overwhelming to me. In so many good ways. I was literally mesmerized by the love and the effusiveness. The laughter! My face and sides would ache.

Of course, I was asked to join in from my first trip there. You would think that as a singer and performer that it would come naturally to just jump in. But I was hesitant at first. What they do is different than get up and sing a song. They sing songs well known to the Irish people, and to their family in particular, and people join in and sing along with each others’ songs. And there is some drinking going on, too, which adds to the joviality of it all. They are usually singing a cappella, or without instrumentation. I mainly know American pop songs and show tunes and am used to singing crafted arrangements with piano accompaniment! I wasn’t sure how to fit what I do in with what I was seeing and experiencing.

When I finally did give in and join in, I was well-received for what I had to offer, and so now I have my own party pieces to do. I also think ahead for songs to do that everyone may know so they can join in. (It feels OK to sing one song that only I know – more of a performance – but it feels weird to me to do more than that.) It is more fun to have everyone singing along. I have taught a round to the group that they love to do (as loudly as possible!)

I have had to develop new muscles for the trips to Ireland for the weddings that bring us back each year. Not only stamina for the epic hours spent together into the wee hours of the morning, which can be additionally challenging while adjusting to the time change. But for the sheer volume of human interaction that occurs.

Being a mostly introvert person, I do love people, but I also need refill-the-well time. I love going deep in conversation; not so much the small talk. I have found my own way while over there. Fortunately, I can just sit and listen a lot. I can take little power naps if need be. No one judges. Being “the American” buys me some wiggle room: I am given some leeway.

But mainly, I just love every moment. I bask in the love and the music. I do my party piece and enjoy their appreciation of what I have to offer.

I am blessed with this extended Irish family. It has been the gift that keeps on giving, this marriage to my husband. I am surrounded by love that helps keep me from getting too blue over the key family members who are no longer here.

And I get to study with true masters the art of storytelling through song and spoken word. It just doesn’t get better than that!

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Post: recite