“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
A look at the finished project.
After hours and hours of design work plus hard labor building this wonderful space for me, I know Bob is glad to see this day come. We still have flooring to get down and some additional landscaping come spring. But it’s ready for me to spend my writing time there.
Here are a few photos of the Studio now. Clicking on an image will enlarge it and also provide the images in a slideshow format.
Gratitude and love fill my heart.
While Bob worked so hard last summer and then finished the exterior painting and clean up this last month, I was sitting in my recliner or on good days at my corner writing space. Depending on the day, I might have been prone on the bed. At times, I felt guilty he was working so hard to get this additional writing space completed.
I say “additional” because as noted in my previous blog post I don’t have wifi access in my studio. This is intentional. When I’m in that space, with classical or soft jazz music playing and nature all around outside, I want to focus on writing, reading, and/or research.
In the near term, I’ll be revising my memoir manuscript one last time before sending it off into the big wide world. My studio will be my workroom void of distractions as I want to provide a work as near to a finished product as I can.
You are owed my thanks as well.
Over the past 33 months, as I struggled to stay present online and to write, so many have encouraged and supported me. I can share with you that we thought things were improving recently. For a short while, we thought we had the answers in front of us, but that changed last week with a call from my surgeon. Some days you wonder if it’s ever going to end.
Continue to be the writing community you are, and it will allow each writer here, there, or wherever you spend your social media and reading time the chance to publish a memoir or a first novel or YA work. You never know whose life you have touched.
What if you woke up one day, living with a family member who had changed into an entirely different person? What if she were an older sibling you had always admired and strived to be like? And what if you were an insecure preteen when it all started? What would that do to your life?
Martha Graham-Waldon’s memoir entitled, Nothing Like Normal: Surviving a Sibling’s Schizophrenia, chronicles the trajectory of her sister’s thirty-year battle with schizophrenia. Two years younger, the author watched her beloved sister descend into madness, nearly pulling the author down with her into a shadowy and baffling black hole of despair.
Nothing Like Normal: Surviving a Sibling’s Schizophrenia by Martha Graham-Waldon Published by Black Opal Books (November 14, 2015) Genre: Memoir/Family Relationships/Mental Health Source: Author Format: Kindle, 278 pages ASIN: B017H5E5S8
FCC Disclosure: Thank you to the author for providing a copy of this book.
In her memoir, Nothing Like Normal: Surviving a Sibling’s Schizophrenia, Martha Graham-Waldon shares the story of her family dealing with an insidious mental health issue. The author was a younger sister who had shared her world with her sister, and then watches her sister’s long battle with schizophrenia. Life changes for both in drastic and intense ways.
Graham-Waldon allows her reader to share in the most intimate of scenes the deterioration of the relationship with her sister and the impact not only on the family, but the greatest struggles clear in the author’s life.
With eloquence and artistry, the author takes us on a journey most of us have not experienced. Or perhaps in our family, the journey has been held secret. In either way, we come away from reading Nothing Like Normal with a birds’ eye view of what a life lived in the midst of the downward spiraling of a victim of schizophrenic experiences, all the while impacting the relationships once held dear.
As a reader and writer of memoir, I appreciated Graham-Waldon’s honesty in her writing of Nothing Like Normal. Writing the truth in a story with such traumatic experiences is not easy. The author accomplishes this well.
I highly recommend this book to those confronting the experience of living with or caring for a family member with mental health issues, specifically schizophrenia. The author’s insights in living with and growing up faced with the dramatic and hurtful changes in her familial relationships are revealing and first-hand.
Meet Martha Graham-Waldon
I am a writer, spiritual entrepreneur and armchair activist who happily resides in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California with my family and a menagerie of pets. My articles have been published locally, internationally and online. I am a winner of the Women’s Memoirs contest for a vignette from my memoir in the eBook Tales of Our Lives. A member of the National Association of Memoir Writers, I love travel, the outdoors, Jazzercise and music. My debut book, the memoir Nothing Like Normal—Surviving a Sibling’s Schizophrenia was published by Black Opal Books on November 14, 2015.
The featured image above holds the answer to this question. The word cloud contains many emotions experienced by those confronted with negative reactions. Perhaps in the form of words or even by threatened actions. Reading the emotions tells us what our words and actions may do to another.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Let’s see how that works. Look at the image of Will Muschamp during his tenure as head football coach at the University of Florida.
The score of this game held Muschamp’s future. Muschamp’s facial expression defines his anger. And it’s not hard to see the object of his scorn.
WHY AM I WRITING ABOUT THIS?
We’ll get to that in a minute. First, another example I saw while watching an NCAA football game a couple of weeks ago. What I saw has stayed with me as it brought back memories of a painful childhood.
I searched online football news for a photo perhaps taken by a reporter or TV crew, but no luck. You’ll have to use your imaginations to bring the image to mind.
One of the two teams playing made a touchdown, and as usual, there was much celebration. As the offensive players made it to the sidelines, the offensive line coach was waiting. He expressed heated displeasure with his players. I couldn’t understand why.
As the young collegiate players took seats, the coach visibly berated them. His facial expressions, like those of Will Muschamp, revealed such anger it was frightening. His index finger did its share of chest jabbing. If faceguards had not been in place, I daresay he may have done more. Despite the touchdown, it seems some of his players had made a mistake in carrying out the play. The touchdown was forgotten in favor of berating his players.
As a child exposed to similar abuses, I looked on as these young men shrank on the TV screen. Still in full uniform and pads, their shoulders slumped and theirs heads hung low. They were experiencing many of the emotions in the word cloud above. I felt bad for them all, including the coach for his behavior.
IT’S NOT JUST IN SPORTS
I’m writing about this topic because it’s evident in all phases of our world. Today bullying runs rampant in so many places–the workplace, schoolroom, community activities, and organizations. Many relationships suffer the effects of bullying.
If we take a look around our daily lives, a short list becomes clear. We find it in professional workplaces, employer to employee, friendships, and among family members.
Take a look at why this happens. Usually it happens when a sense of competition, hierarchy, power, or control gets out of hand. Even in our community of writers, editors, coaches, and teachers it can happen.
How can this be you might ask? Among writers and those who support them or direct their paths?
I recently met with a writing coach. She requested I send the first ten pages of my manuscript for her review. Not to critique or edit, simply review. Despite knowing this, my nerves jangled as I headed toward the appointment. Rooted in my mother’s persistent negative reactions toward me, I anticipated a negative response.
Imagine my relief when the coach began our meeting with the words, “You’re a good writer.” Of course, there were topics addressed which needed work and I knew there would be. But she began our meeting on a positive note. It made all the difference in how I left the meeting.
A FEW THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
When critiquing another’s writing, do you jump on the most negative element in feedback? Or do you lead first with something positive?
When commenting on a blog post, do you immediately point out a grammatical error or an incorrect fact? Or do you first offer appreciation for the writer’s effort and time in posting?
When participating in a Google Hangout or Skype conversation, do you put others down? Or do you ignore whatever irritates you in a more private, less offensive way later?
Do you choose public forum vs. privacy to clear the air with a fellow writer, editor, coach, or teacher?
As adults, we no longer see the need to raise hands to speak. Yet, there is another way to avoid talking over each other and being rude. Be patient and wait for a break in the conversation and then speak. No reason to step on others’ toes and/or feelings.
This short list is only five examples of ways we can watch our own behavior. Sometimes, as the irate football coach did, we react too fast. In so doing, we reduce the other party to any of the several emotions in our word cloud. And we cast ourselves in the role of an abuser or bully.
Bullying isn’t found only among our children and youth. Adults have a handle on bullying too. It may be a carryover from a dysfunctional childhood. Perhaps a lack of self-respect from a feeling of unworthiness. Even jealousy plays a large role. As adults, we must set the example for children and youth.
Let’s try to make a difference by remembering these words:
“Words are containers for power. You choose what kind of power they carry.”
In posts here, here, and here, I have written on the topic of writing and its healing benefits. Today I want to share a cautionary tale with you. Something happened in our family two weeks ago today casting a different light, at least for me, on the subject of memories, writing, and healing.
I am a proponent of the healing benefits of writing because I thoughtI had come close to healing from scars and memories of my past related to my mother’s parenting skills and my ex-husband’s similar abuses. I now know this is only partially true.
The incident bringing this understanding to light occurred in our home and involved our eldest child, a son aged 43. Coincidentally, he is the son of my first marriage and later adopted at age 18, at his request, by my second husband. The details of what happened are not important to my post. However, I will say that Bob and I were stunned at their occurrence.
What is important for you to know is that I was alone here with our son when this happened and mid-point through the incident, I felt as though I had time travelled decades backward. My emotions kicked into high gear, and I immediately found myself wanting to put space between the two of us.
As soon as I did, the incident took on the heat of a glass blower’s furnace, and I felt my emotions accelerate into what felt like a nightmare. I could not be living through this again! And yet I felt as if I were staring at my mother and ex-husband rolled into one.
The reaction I was having to our son’s behavior was familiar to me — a tightness in my chest, shallow breathing, a need for air, a need to close myself off from what was happening. As a child, I would run and close my door and lock it when Mama treated me abusively. With my ex-husband, it was a different story; he was bigger and stronger than I and so I rolled into a fetal position and cried.
Finally, I walked to our entry which prompted our son to leave. And then all of my past emotions and feelings came surging forward and out. I cried the next three hours until my husband returned home.
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What I have learned from this experience is as follows:
Although this incident brought back unhappy and painful memories, my recovery from them has been quicker. For the past two weeks, my husband and I have talked about what happened but less and less each day. Bob has yet to speak to our son about his actions but will in due course.
I realize that my emotions were the result of seeing in action what caused my pain before, and I began taking steps to remove myself — standing up from the kitchen table where we sat, walking step-by-step into our kitchen, and then into our entry. I placed myself at a distance from the person hurting me with his words and emotions.
Initially, I haven’t been able to write here or on my memoir. I realized yesterday I was ready to write again because writing is what brought me far enough to take the steps listed above. This morning the subject of this post came to me, and here I am. Later today I plan to begin work again on rewriting my first draft of my memoir.
Based on all of this, I have learned that yes, writing is a healing agent from whatever pain, abuse, unhappiness or loss we have experienced. However, not all of those memories disappear. They are a part of who we are forever. They make up our being, the person we have become, for we have learned from them. And yes, like in PTSD and other similar emotional situations, there are triggers which precipitate memories surging back quickly.
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Be cautious as you write to remember we cannot wipe away our memories by writing, but the writing itself with its cathartic nature will teach us how to handle the resurgence of those memories should something or someone trigger them.
“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” ∼ Rose Kennedy