Listening to my heart.

“Writing is cutting open your chest, pulling out your own trembling heart, plopping it down in front of someone and asking if they can feel you. I keep on doing it because every now and then, they can.” — Lori Houston Eizinga

It has been a while since I’ve allowed myself to just free flow blog. I’m not entirely sure why really. Part of it is because I’ve been busy and, part of it is fear. Two of my stories went viral this year, well viral for me anyway, and while I do think that’s cool part of me freaked out a little.

Neurotic thoughts of “how do I top that?” abounded in my brain. And then it happened, someone posted a rant in the comment section. A hateful nasty snarky rant aimed at me and my alleged stupidity. It was personal. But it was a stranger and even though it stings it is okay. And then someone misunderstood my heart in a different post. I’d shared a story from The Elephant Journal, Can We Be Lovers Without Having Sex, and while I love the whole premise of human connection and how we’ve lost that today, some people only see the sex part Oh well

I have at times been unfriended, blocked, rebuked, and prayed for, not by strangers mind you, but people who know me. That hurts my feelings. And that comes with the territory.

The same thing happens with comedy. One person’s clean is another person’s edge. Then someone writes and says thank you, I thought I was the only one, and it’s worth it.

And that’s the writer’s life. We will be loved. We will be hated. We will be misunderstood. And we will do it again tomorrow, because if we don’t, a piece of us dies.

fall at the coveI am currently at my cove recovering from the first of two surgeries on my right ankle. My leg is a little crooked and I am getting it fixed. They took out a piece of my tibia and grafted it back somewhere else. It’s being held together with a metal plate and screws. Once this heals, they will go back and add a castor hinge and more screws. It will be at least March of next year before I’ll be able to walk. That means no traveling unless it’s a family emergency, and no stand up. and so I rest on my front porch, read a ton, write even more and practice my banjo.

I really ran myself ragged  last year what with all my have-to-accomplish-now goals. I hit the ground hard when my youngest graduated high school in 2012; Teaching, speaking, writing, 30 college credit hours, stand up comedy (with strong internal pressure to master that over night) banjo lessons (ditto), art classes, acting classes, auditions, contests, building a platform, and becoming a cyclist (that one never really took off). Three weeks of staring at water at my cove revealed a moment of “duh!” I am exhausted. That so far has been my greatest epiphany. Well that and metal inside your leg really hurts when it’s cold outside.

Funny thing is, I entered this recovery/sabbatical with a to do list as well. I scratched everything out and simply wrote : listen to your heart.

Slowing down is good. Being present in the moment is even better.

Where there is anger, there can be great comedy, but first you need to face the pain.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that life will make a woman out of me yet, just not today.

Today my inner-child is engaged in the dialog. She likes to show up from time to time when she wants to teach me something. Now that I am in comedy, she and I have become quite close.

At the advice of some close comic friends, I’ve started mining the fertile soil of my past and my inner psyche for material. The only way I can safely travel through those ancient fields is if I take her along. I need to see through both the detached eyes of an adult as well as hers. She keeps me honest and she keeps me from putting myself down on stage.

For instance, I once wrote a joke about being “the fat chick with self-esteem issues” and that one never made the stage. She didn’t like it at all. And she’s back, this time as my genus as we walk through some hard topics like  affairs, abuse, alcoholism, marriage, and self-esteem.

Sometimes I go through dark hallways when I write, even if I’m writing comedy. I find recesses in my own spirit that are wilted and it takes a bit of a journey before I get the water and light needed to bring balance back.

Sometimes I don’t realize I’m in a tunnel until I start getting emails and questions about my Facebook sharing. My humor get’s dark in tunnels. Without thinking I have (in a week’s time) changed my cover pic to I’m with Stupid (A brain pointing to a heart) and shared memes that are along the lines of “don’t cheat, leave if it’s that bad” and “do I smother them or make pancakes?” and people are starting to ask if my husband and I are okay — oops..

My husband and are FINE, thank you for asking. I’m just focusing on a hard chapter and I’m still unsure on the direction to take. I am presently working on a comedy set about cheating and low, the topic of the week at least in my internet “world” is cheating as well. Or maybe I’m just noticing it because of where my focus is these days. It seems like so many people are talking about it. Some are doing it. Other’s are posting meme’s against it. Other’s are getting divorced because of it and I feel like a voyeur most days.

A few weeks ago I heard a radio show justifying cheating, and this week I discovered that MTV has a man show that teaches guys how to cheat without getting caught. I can’t tell if it’s meant to be a comedy show or just pure crap. Or maybe it’s both, who knows.  My skull finally exploded this week and it’s taken me a while to figure out why I’m so angry.

“What anger’s us in another person is more often than not, an unhealed aspect in ourselves. If we had already resolved that particular issue, we would not be irritated by it’s reflection back at us.” — Simon Fuller

Like it or not, there are victims in this equation. I know what cheating does to people. I’ve spent a lifetime cleaning up that wreckage and there’s some healing left to do. I have kinda strange boundary issues because of it as well. I can find the funny, if I allow myself the healing I need. No healing, no funny. That’s just how it works.

I don’t know of many things that can confuse a person more than growing up with a revolving door of parental partners. I’ve honestly lost count at the number of men and women who entered and left my life. It started long before my parent’s divorce and never really ended until recently.

Potential partners trying to win me over in order to win over the parent they want to have sex with is confusing as well as frustrating to a child. I always saw right through it and I learned how to play the game. I figured out pretty quickly that men  and women alike were willing to drop big bucks on me if needed. I hate to admit this, but I’ve racked up trips to California, Disney World, Detroit Tiger’s ball games, designer clothes, college books, shoes, and many other things. I knew what they were doing, and I played along to my profit as well as their gain.

Of course, I always had questions.

Will I get a new Dad?

Is this my new Mom?

How attached do I get?

How long are they here for?

Will they stay?

None of them ever stayed and so it’s just a matter of time before the questions became “When will they leave?” and “Is it my fault they are gone?” No wonder I have trust issues.

Mining comedy doesn’t always start in shallow waters. Good comedy goes beyond knock knock jokes and puns and searches for that diamond in the rough — that redeemable moment of vulnerability and truth. Depths and layers are explored. It’s a painful process at times. Writing comedy allows me to explore the layers of my life and of society, allowing me to be vulnerable and not only face myself and my past, but to embrace the future as well.

Good comedy has an obligation to take you past the comfortable and expand your mind, but first it sometimes breaks a writer’s heart. All in a day’s work.

Redemption’s Heart is Under Construction and is getting a new name.

under constructionA new attitude is rising up around here — I’m thinking a brand new look is in order as well. We’ve slapped on some paint, shifted some  furniture, knocked out a cyber wall or two and this page is really starting to come together nicely. In light of all the changes, both in my life and on this blog, Redemption’s Heart needs a name change. — For starters it just doesn’t fit anymore. and I’m not a Mommy / Garden Blogger Anymore. I’m still married, but my kids are grown and my gardens are dead.

And so, we’ve changed the name from Redemption’s Heart to Deana Louise.  We’ve played with all kinds of names, some of them really cool (My husband suggested “my hot wife”  and while I thought that was sweet, I decided to pass) Since I own Deana Louise Productions, it just made more sense to go with that. I’m a comic, artist, speaker, freelance writer , banjo student, and poet. Instead of PTA meetings and bake sales, I am now exploring life after kids, facing down fears and testing my own grit. This is where I share my new adventures – and sometimes misadventures. Welcome.

How (not) to Write A Novel

Notice that all of your writing friends have signed up for NaNoWriMo and being the kind of person who doesn’t like to feel left out of things agree to do it as well.

Tell everyone on Facebook you will be gone for a month because you are writing a novel.

Keep refreshing your page to see if anyone “likes” your status.

Move lap top to back porch to be inspired by scenery.

Knock over coffee cup with laptop.

Clean up spilled coffee.

Go get more coffee.

Check in on Facebook to see if anyone else is writing yet.

Find out your friends have over 5,000 words already.

Feel like a hopeless failure and go searching for chocolate.

Sit down and make yourself write garbage for an hour.

Delete garbage.

Go look for Bird by Bird book.

Read Bird By Bird

Find out that garbage is a good start.

Try to undelete file.

Check in on Facebook and talk to friends who aren’t supposed to be there either.

Solve family crisis.

Brood and lament about being the oldest child.

Argue about election with strangers.

Get into a cat fight.

Wish you still lived in Detroit.

Think about first amendment.

Write about first amendment.

Search Youtube for inspirational back ground music.

Write 19,854 words over 11 days

Decide your protagonist is an idiot.

Drink a glass of merlot hoping she’ll smarten up.

Remember that you have a banjo lesson in three days and you haven’t played in a week.

Practice for two hours in hopes of fooling teach.

Accept that you can’t learn a song in two hours and that teach is smarter than that.

Drink another glass of merlot and walk around the cove hoping for inspiration.

Get smacked in the gut with a new word for 2013.

Lament to writing coach.

Discover that you and your protagonist are one and the same.

Retract idiot statement.

Practice banjo some more.

Celebrate that you have 19,854 more words than you did 15 days ago.

Lay on floor listening to music and try to learn how to count beats.

Fall asleep counting beats.

Agree to write again in the morning.

Mending My Life

Well written poetry heals souls.

Why bother using an Ivy League vocabulary when the truth is as simple as that?

Well

written

poetry

heals

souls.

When discussing great literature, I catch myself wanting to write as if I’ve graduated from Baylor instead of business college. That makes book reviews difficult for me sometimes. I want to match the intellect of the authors in question and write as if I were a scholar myself. My main problem with that however is the scholastic approach to writing does not match my day-to-day voice. I’m not an MFA graduate. I’m just me. Mac and Cheese as Molly calls me. Comfort food in many ways.

I went looking for my literary voice last year and found my heart. Granted my heart was at the time in a about a million pieces all over the floor. I was lost in the rubble when a ragtag band of modern-day poets and women’s rights activists invited me to internet tea last fall. We banded together as only women can and sifted through the debris of unmet needs, false hopes, unrealistic expectations of others and toxic co-dependency.  Their love and acceptance breathes life into my battle weary soul.

I have no idea how long I’d been holding my breath; it must have been a while. I just know that it had been long time since I’d had fresh air. I found a respite and breathing place with these women. I took big gulps of air at first and gushed quite a bit over their acceptance and caring. I’ve settled in quite nicely now and my heart rate and oxygen levels have returned to normal.

Recovering from a broken heart takes more time than I am sometimes willing to allow.  One of the unexpected bonuses, while I am picking up the pieces I discover that not all of them fit any more. This is good news. This means there is room for more —

More friends

More hope

More adventures

More love.

I have officially turned the corner and the scenery is to die for.

I wrote my first poem of sorts in many years on September 12 of 2011.  My poetic soul knows what I didn’t. You might say it was my battle cry.

The Fractured Mirror

To be handed one’s emotional ass on a silver platter and yet have so little regard for self, that the best revelation one can muster that anything is wrong  are stomach issues, persistent blushing, and chest pain is a travesty. While it is true that artists are capable of being emotionally empathetic to a fault and that our souls can easily be a magnet to acts of spiritual terrorism, we still have choices.

Does one choose to succumb to this warped sense of reality, thereby being a victim of the fractured mirror of others as well as their own learned misogynistic views? Or can the false mirror be broken and a new paradigm created?

Some world views are nothing more than a fractured reflection of one’s own self-hatred and false dichotomies.

Unrealistic expectations and lies of others do not define me. I DEFINE ME.

Thus began my journey back to wholeness and life. Molly gave us the following poem during my very first week of writing classes – I’d never read The Journey by Mary Oliver before. As soon as I read it, I knew I was home.

one day you finally knew what you had to do, and began. though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice, though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles, “mend my life!” – each voice cried, but you didn’t stop you knew what you had to do. though the wind pried with its stiff finger at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible, it was already late enough and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches & stones. but little by little as you left their voices behind the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds. and there was a new voice which you suddenly recognized as your own and that kept you company as you strode deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do, determined to save the only life you could save. – mary oliver

I’m continuing my journey next week by attending Poetry Book Camp led by Molly Fisk which means I won’t be here. While I’m gone might I suggest reading a good poetry book or better yet – write your own poems. Like I said – Well written poetry heals souls. Your soul is worth it.

I’ll be back before the month is out.

Take care.

Voice: Who Speaks For You?

Photo from istock.

You can’t find your voice if you only let others speak for you.

I love the photo from istock. The person in the middle standing out in red with their arms in the air seems so freeing. A visual “ME! I’m here!” in a sea of beige. It speaks to me and so does the quote about letting others speak for me. I think I’ve spent most of my life handing off personal power and pieces of my identity for peace.

I’m only on week two of my voice studies and my brain is already overflowing with Ah Ha moments and inspiration. The assignments have been relatively simple really and yet scary at the same time. I have an Associates Degree while everyone else appears to have a Masters in Lit or higher – heck yes I’m comparing. It scares me.

It’s no coincidence that I would find a writers voice class in the same season that I am questioning my own beliefs about life in general and wondering whose voice really transfers over. Is it my voice people hear or is my version of someone’s expectations? Since I don’t know the answer, I believe that is a question worth exploring.

My journaling goes beyond the lessons these days as I look at why I choose certain phrases and where opinions come from. Am I being rebellious? Am I being afraid? Am I being a parrot? or Am I being me?

Writing has become enjoyable again.  They don’t know me. There are no expectations of specific character and behavior. I have the freedom and permission to try on voices like a teenager tries on clothes. There’s no box to fit into.

This class is as freeing as the day I learned how to do stand up — granted I hope and pray writing produces better results.  Or maybe the fruit that seed planted *is* growing. Maybe stand-up is just another part of the path of finding myself again. Once I learned how to tell jokes on stage – kill or die trying – other things (like going back to being a Democrat) don’t seem nearly as formidable. I’m eyeball deep in Republicans, trust me when I say that changing back is a bit formidable. Other questions do arise however:

  • Just because I’m a Christian does that mean I *have* to talk about God all the time?
  • Can I have opinions that are left of center rather than right?
  • Can I talk about something else like how hard being middle-aged is sometimes?
  • Can I talk about love or nature or even sex.
  • Can I talk about the really sexy artist/poet that makes me melt?
  • I’m a Mom but do I have to talk about my kids?

Can I swear?

Anne Lamott does.

I remember the first time I read Traveling Mercies and I saw the F-word. It knocked my sensibilities right out of my socks and caused me to double-check the jacket. Yep, she’s a Christian.  My eyes lit up, I giggled and looked around wondering if anyone had heard what I just read. Then something magical happened, my soul settled deep into my reading chair and by the end of the book – I wanted dreadlocks too.

Wanting them and actually getting them are not the same thing. Trying them on for size? Totally worth it.  I just didn’t know how I was going to do that. I finally had my chance while on a cruise with some new artist friends and had my hair braided on the beach in Costa Maya last Spring. They lasted all of 12 hours. Dreadlocks  aren’t me after all — the wires kept poking me. I finally sat straight up in bed at 2 in the morning and spent two hours taking them out.

I don’t have to copy someone’s look or voice or opinion to fit in. And if I do then they aren’t my tribe.

I don’t have to be Anne Lamott or ee cummings or CS Lewis to be a writer. I don’t have to live off of someone else’s faith to be a Christian either.  I just have to be wholly me whatever that entails.

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. October 26, 2011. All rights reserved.