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3 posts categorized "Featured Pieces"

October 18, 2006

A Featured Piece: On Velcro and Healing the Writing Process Itself

[S.A. sent me the following in response to a post of mine earlier this week in which I mentioned the notion that perhaps even someone who had come to dislike writing—someone with a negative experience of writing in the past—could benefit from writing and healing. That perhaps the writing process itself could be healed. I asked S.A. for permission to publish her piece, and she, graciously, granted it. Thus------]

ON VELCRO AND HEALING THE WRITING PROCESS ITSELF
By S.A.

Oh, my. The process of writing itself can be healed! I had a high school English teacher who basically did not like anything I wrote on paper. Mrs. R---. Negative. However, as it happens in a rural community, I had a sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Knapp, who also repeated as my high school English teacher my sophomore year. In sixth grade, she encouraged me to read Oliver Twist and she always made positive comments and seemed to enjoy my written topics, even when grammatically flawed.

Mrs. Knapp was a stellar teacher. She read Russell Baker's New York Times column every day during my tenth-grade year. I just loved her and her sense of humor. And she was quick! I disrupted sixth grade one time with my new Velcro zipper. I had sisters who left the farm for NYC and they brought home all the latest ideas. Velcro was one of the innovations they brought to my mother, who sewed most of my clothes. During the class, I waited until Mrs. Knapp started speaking and then slowly peeled the Velcro apart. After about three or four of these episodes, she nailed me. Her words were perfect, kind and humorous, "So we have Mae West in our midst?" Somehow, I knew who Mae West was and it was enough of an embarrassment to stop my behavior. She did not punish.

Today, one of Mae West's quotes is a favorite of mine: "It is better to be looked over, than over looked!" And I think of Mrs. Knapp.

It was not until Andrew, my husband, died and I was in grief therapy that I realized how much I had let Mrs. R--- influence me so negatively. My counselor, Betty, encouraged me to write and I told her I was not capable. I had written a short poem that Betty liked and she asked if she could share it with another grief client. It was called, "Who Am I?" I was surprised and, frankly, thought she was patronizing me.

I did write more after that and I wrote mostly humorous stories via email to friends. Several were sent to a dear friend of ours who died of colon cancer. People, including one sister (a whole story in itself), complimented my writing, saying that it lightened their day. Healing. I had nurtured another. Writing made me get outside of myself and my misery. Healing. I was writing for me...for friends.... and not Mrs. R---.

November 27, 2006

Four Chambers for Tyler David Tandeski: A Featured Piece

[I am very pleased to introduce this poem submitted by Danielle Crawford, a young woman at Fairhaven College in western Washington state. She began writing this poem while in her first "official" poetry class, four months ago, and she is now, she tells me, passionately pursuing a double major in creative writing and fine art.] Four Chambers for Tyler David Tandeski In memoriam [October 1, 1999] I. It stinks like cotton swabs turned cold beside Mother’s under-ripe belly. Six months have passed. She sits, waits: hunched, hurt on that inhospitable bed. I can’t tell her this, but she’s aged a decade in a day. Never looked so frail: a daisy, withered by the worst of winters. The October sky— Mom’s crying again, laying above peppered linoleum, under so many lights there’s nowhere left to hide. She’s naked, barren beneath the gown. I try to resist, but join her, weep. * The doctor’s eyes are dull with mock concern. I, twelve, confused, want to escape. In their crisply clean uniforms— uniform sterility— they stare, then speak: The human heart has four chambers… How were we to know God gave you only two? * Years of wait and worry plagued my parents. Mom’s stiff as the starchy parchment paper she’s now lying on. Emotions repressed, her words are strangled: It’s done. II. Did we make the right choice? After the initial miracle of you, I guess we believed in invincibility. An age-old wish, the desire to rewind. Would it have been selfish—? We thought of the steps you never took. We kissed the ground you never set foot upon. Since you’ve been gone, we’ve lost our footing, our solid ground. I try to picture what you’d be like now. I’ve dressed your name up in costumes, cloaked your memory with denial, anguish, rage… anything I could muster, paralyzed. I don’t wish to remember you this way. I’m back where I began: without a clue. The cotton, the clothing, that cold room, my memory, too— it’s all too white. I can’t help but wonder if, taken, you took color from our lives. ‘99. Now seven more. You would be eight, Tyler, had you survived half a heart and Down Syndrome. I’m greedy; I want you next to me. You still are my brother. I think of you, whose footprint—only an inch!— left a lasting imprint. The human heart has four chambers… Your heart was stronger than mine for letting you go. We need your malformed heart to mend our own.

February 04, 2007

Eighteen Ways of Looking at Cancer: A Featured Piece

EIGHTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT CANCER
by Eleanor, Louise, Lydia, Nell, Rosetta and Sandra

I
I love my mother, my brother and my grandmother
But I’m not ready to go and be with them yet
What about my three children?


II
Questions:
How are we going to proceed?
What is my chance of recurrence?
How did this happen to me?
Why am I even in this picture?


III
A lot of people think, “Why me?”
I never did go through, “Why me?”


IV
Pure and simple fear
Fear of what?
Pure and simple fear of pain
Fear of the next thing, and the next


V
Depression.
Sometimes you don’t recognize when you’re depressed.
There are some days when you just don’t want to talk on the phone.


VI
I felt like a marionette
My strings being pulled in every direction
They want me to have this scan, and this test,
And this bloodwork.
Where do you want me now?


VII
I left my body and the treatment
And the doctors--
I left them to the guidance of God


VIII
The whirlwind, the disruption
The chaos it created in everyone else’s life—
My husband’s, my three sons, their families, my friends, and mine.
Like a tornado had come through
It kept getting bigger


IX
When is this going to end?
Where is the end?


X
Lost in this never-ending struggle or tunnel
The struggle is the tunnel
On and on
Never-ending
Dark


XI
I want to say something about sickness
Not being able to keep anything down
Sickness on top of sickness
Complications of a weakened immune system


XII
So much information
Overwhelmed with information
Three bulging grocery bags
(And you’re sick. When can you read?)


XIII
Sleep
What’s a good night’s sleep?
Waking up exhausted
The lack of energy is indescribable


XIV
Burning,
Burning
And more burning
During radiation


XV
So tired doing basic things
Will I ever be normal again?


XVI
With all of that you have to deal with generalizations
And stereotypes:
“Oh, you still have your hair?”


XVII
Other people’s insensitivities:
“We’re not talking about cancer.”


XVIII
Other people’s kindnesses:
A bag of tomatoes
A rotisserie chicken.

[This piece was written at Cancer Services in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at a writing and healing workshop in 2004.]