Jun 182019
 

“It’s Pride month and I’m the only kid in America whose parents are disappointed in him for being straight,” one of ours once quipped. He knew we were not disappointed in him for any reason but probably didn’t feel comfortable asking either of his parents why we celebrate Pride. We’re not gay, either.

Just last weekend — at the request of town officials — our little Bible belt community (and new home town) held its first Pride celebration. Organizers were well aware that the purpose of the request was to change the narrative that erupted last June when a Pride flag was raised at City Hall. Despite the challenge raised, I don’t believe the council expected an event would take place; the island’s first annual Pride celebration included a parade followed by a day long, family-friendly festival. And, while there were some who showed up for education, some to sneer, and others to satisfy their curiosity, protests were almost non-existence.

Why do the hetero members of my family celebrate Pride? I have some reasons. Click To Tweet

But why does this matter in my family? There are so many reasons, the first being our basic belief in the Christian directive to “love one another, as I have loved you” along with that part of the Declaration of Independence that speaks to the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For everyone. Injustice tends to piss us off.

Many years ago, when I worked in an inpatient addiction treatment center, one of my lesbian clients was going on and on about how she’d have to spend time in bars because that’s where her culture was based. I told her I didn’t buy it and that she’d need to connect with sober lesbians to find out where they socialized without getting around alcohol. The next week the facility director announced I’d be running an ongoing group for our LGBTQ+ patients. Apparently, I was one of the few clinicians who did not think being gay caused addiction. A few years later, a company owned by the man known around the internet as Favorite Husband founded the Pride Institute — the country’s first addiction treatment center for the LGBTQ+ community.

And while those things are important, they’re not “it” for me. I went to college in a time and at a place that “gay is OK” and came of age during “the gay plague.” At one of the biggest crisis points in my life, the only person who stood by me was someone whose family member had been in my “gay group” and stayed sober. And one of my closest high school friends: a gay man I’ll not name here. I’ll not out him, even posthumously, because that’s not my part of the story. It’s his.

I'll not out him, even posthumously, because that's not my part of the story. It's his. Click To Tweet

My part of the story includes finding one another at a hormone-rife time of life, thereby removing Sister Roma judges a Hunky Jesus contestant during The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence 35th Anniversarysexuality from our friendship equation, and always having fun. Always. He taught me to dance, to drive
a stick shift, to laugh off serious wardrobe malfunctions, and how to weaken the knees of almost anyone with a thousand-watt smile. I don’t remember teaching him anything but, if he were here, he’d say there was something — even if he had to exaggerate. Because he was incredibly kind and went out of his way to lift others. Always.

And then he died.

It was a violent, bloody suicide. I don’t know “the” reason but there were factors: first-generation American, lots of pressure to succeed, former altar boy, and possible abuse of power by one of our teachers. Maybe he had GRID. I don’t know. Nobody should die because of who they are or who they love. It broke me.

So I celebrate Pride. And the right to be. And to love and be loved. Always.

May 152019
 

Most people I know — especially other writers — subscribe to the “this may be good but I can do better” school of work. As a result, given the right combination of HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) our minds can quickly flip over to “this will never be good enough.” That inner critic can grab hold and shake our confidence like a dog with a new toy. This is part of the reason that the online #WritersCommunity flourishes: there’s always someone there to be goofy or to share compliments with a floundering counterpart.

We thrive when others point out our good qualities and the things we are doing well. Compliments are some of the best gifts we can receive — especially until we learn how to provide this wonderful experience for ourselves.

That #InnerCritic can grab hold and shake our confidence like a dog with a new toy. Click To Tweet

I spent many years teaching women how to appreciate their own talents and strengths. While there are many ways to do this, one of the exercises I routinely used was called Building Emotional Muscle. Here’s an abbreviated version.

Below are 45 words for positive traits:

  • active, determined, kind, adventurous, energetic
  • lively, artistic, enthusiastic, loving, aware
  • expressive, observant, beautiful, forgiving, open
  • bold, friendly, patient, brave, generous
  • powerful, bright, gentle, ready-to-learn, capable
  • handsome, respectful, caring, happy, responsible
  • changing, hard-working, sensitive, confident, honest
  • strong, cooperative, imaginative, thoughtful, creative
  • inventive, unique, dependable, joyful, wise

Choose your favorite 5 and list an example of how it manifests in your life.

You can also use this list with some of your online (or in-person) “crew.” Tweet, text, or email an example of how each of them exemplifies one of these traits. Choose a day during the week or month to share this sort of support within that group. Eventually, each of you will have a great collection. In fact, while you’re at it, why not have each group member add 10 or 15 words to the list?

One of the problems with using this sort of technique to counteract your inner critic is that many of us have a hard time accepting compliments.

Sometimes this works best if you don't compliment the person directly -- let her overhear you. Click To Tweet

In that case, here are two more recommendations. First, don’t compliment the person directly — let her “overhear” you. Address your compliment for Ann to Barbara, like this: “Have you noticed the way Barbara’s writing has improved? Her creativity is really shining through!” Depending on the relationships between people involved, Barbara should either not respond or can say/post a simple “thank you.”

Finally, writing can be a lonely business. Comments on blog posts let writers know that someone is reading – and that alone is a great form of feedback. If you’re not sure what to say, refer back to this list. It makes a wonderful starting point for sharing compliments — online or in real life!

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Andrea Patten is the author of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head.

Apr 102019
 

What do you see when I say “passive?” Hankie-totin’ Southern ladies on their fainting couches? Perhaps a heroine, reenacting The Perils of Pauline, tied to the railroad tracks, waiting for rescue? The endlessly complaining, hand-wringing, opinionated non-voter? Or is it the teenaged lump, tethered to this earth by those ever-present headphones? When one is passive, there is no active resistance or response. We can see “passive.”

For writers, there’s that pesky passive voice. When using tools to check my work, I sometimes encounter the software’s dreaded yellow squiggles, indicating a voice that’s not quite active enough. The yellow lines taunt me, demanding a re-write.

But, as the one who installed said pushy software? I actively ignore some of its error messages, tenderly x’ing out yellow squiggles here and there. What I really want to do is to yell at it. “Shut up, dammit.” Use of the passive voice is not always an error. Sometimes it’s a stylistic choice. It’s a choice I make when I don’t CARE how the action occurred or even whodunit. It just is. And, I actively — very actively — more actively than you can know… chose those words.

That, my friends, is an example of an active voice. It leaves no doubt as to the actor: c’est moi. Out here on the printed page or floating in some google-verse, thick with electrons. I still don’t understand how that happens, but I don’t care enough to investigate. Passive. Not the passive voice: just passive. On my virtual fainting couch.

But just what is a voice? I like to think of it as the fingerprint of an artistic endeavor. Actors, singers, and writers all spend time honing and developing a voice. And it can change from time to time. Stories are told, and songs are shared, over and over. 26 letters. Seven plots. Eight whole notes in a Western scale. Voice distinguishes Romeo and Juliet from West Side Story. Ronan Tynan’s Star Spangled Banner from Roseanne Barr’s. Voice is what gives an artist ownership; it makes a thing their own. Finding one’s voice is a trip along that Mobius strip called a learning curve. Age and maturity can conspire to facilitate discovery. It could be a luxurious exploration — like journaling or time shared with a gifted therapist or teacher.

And sometimes it’s as simple as a semi-automatic rifle and unspent, swastika-bearing magazines. Hundreds of lives lost: thousands of voices found.

Think about your own voice for a moment. Is it a song or a sound? A noise or a growl? I think about theirs as well: a cry, a whimper, a protest, a scream. Like so many others before them, their voices were muffled for hours as they hid in closets, whispering calls to 9-1-1. Texting ‘goodbyes’ to their loved ones. Urgent voices. Whispers. Cries. Warnings. And when the scene of the crime was deemed secure, they cried some more. And prayed and laughed and hugged with snot and tears running down their faces. And ever since we learned the term “bump stock,” we’ve seen it too many times.

Thoughts and prayers were offered. Their happily-ever-after was taken.

We use passive voice when the action is more important than the perpetrator or when one wishes to be formal, impersonal, or academic. It is accepted proper journalistic style. Do you ever worry about the blurring line between journalism and entertainment? Perhaps editors launch these neutral headlines to help us take a breath or to feel more objective. Distant. Dispassionate.

  • Responsibility was accepted by the victim.
  • Abusive relationships are often sustained by unemployment.

This time when they started asking ‘why’ it was loud. Why were their friends dead? They allowed their rage and fury to fuel their fierceness. The mass shooting generation: they have never known schools as safe havens. Eighteen years since Columbine. Seventeen-year-olds have grown up with active shooter drills. Barricading doors. Avoiding windows. Knowing how to signal law enforcement that they are the unarmed victims.

College first-years have grown up with active shooter drills. Barricading doors. Avoiding windows. Knowing how to signal law enforcement that they are the unarmed victims. Click To Tweet

But, suddenly, these are not victims. They thunder. Neither victims or survivors: they are warriors. Their voices are urgent. Embattled. Strident. Rulers of the electronic universe, they are beyond able to speak for themselves. Every day they connect with those of us who love them — elders and others standing by to amplify their message. Who will be the loudest voice? The clearest one? The silent one? What, if any, action will be taken? I suspect it will be piecemeal, don’t you? And when it doesn’t work, underfunding will be blamed. And, yes, there’s a lot of passive voice right here, right now: I’m trying to protect you from my fury.

  • The road was crossed by the chicken.
  • The other side was reached.
  • The woman was strangled by her husband.

What are the causes of gun violence? The professional politicians tell us it’s a mental health issue, caused, in part by bullying, and a lack of armed teachers in the classroom. Suddenly there are lots of answers, none of them completely correct. Correct answers don’t make good headlines.

Are you ready for the secret hiding in plain sight? They one no one wants to voice? More than half of all mass shooters have a history of domestic violence: they are victims, perpetrators or both. For most, it hasn’t been a secret — at least until after they kill. The Sandy Hook shooter’s mother feared him. The one in Parkland had threatened a girlfriend and, apparently, the folks who took him in after the death of his Mom. The man who shot up the church in Texas had been court-martialed for assaulting his wife and 2-year-old child. The D.C. sniper terrorized his wife before he branched out to a community. The Boston Marathon bomber. The Pulse nightclub shooter.

  • Mistakes were made.
  • The teen was shot at school.
  • The young woman lost her life.

Let’s stop using words to hide the truth: she did not lose her life. It is not misplaced like so many mismatched socks in the dryer lint: she was murdered. Murdered by a madman with a gun, described by some as a ‘lovesick teen.’

Domestic violence is a women-only problem. A husband has the right. She made him angry. It’s a private family matter. Our current legislators are willing to regulate women’s bodies but not assault rifles. There are still schools in this country legally administering corporal punishment to students. Where women and children are property, domestic violence continues unabated. Unaddressed. It took years to stop publishing the names of the domestic violence victims and even longer to stop making school shooters more famous than those whose lives they stole.

  • Threatening calls were made.
  • The other cheek was turned.
  • Woman injured.

By whom? What was injured? All of her? Or just a little bit? Her dignity, her pride, her self- respect. When was she injured? Was it a single, distinct episode or a daily occurrence? Where? Where on her body? Where in her home? Where in her town?

The Latin origin of the word passive comes from the root 'passe-' meaning ‘suffered.’ But where did the political knee-jerk 'thoughts and prayers' originate? Click To Tweet

The Latin origin of the word passive comes from the root ‘passe-‘ meaning ‘suffered.’ But where did the often-unwanted political knee-jerk thoughts and prayers originate? While not inherently bad, their proffer seems to have become as empty as the ceremonial balloons sometimes released by survivors. Political hot air stands in for courageous action. Passive.
No wonder so many of the online grammar checkers slap my wrist. Passive voice. Perhaps instead of highlights and little yellow squiggles, I should find a different program. I want a program that responds to my passive voice like this: Stop it. Own it. Take responsibility or assign blame.

What action will you put to this?

Mar 232019
 

 

How would you like to tour Ireland with a small group of history lovers? And what if that group was made up of folks who love to read?

 

How would you like to tour Ireland with a small group of history-lovers? Click To Tweet

 

And how much better would that be if such a tour was led by Irish historical fiction author and all around awesome human Nancy Blanton?

 

And what if such a tour was led by Irish historical fiction author Nancy Blanton? Click To Tweet

 

I realize this is an unusual post for me but I’m excited about this wonderful opportunity for folks to explore Ireland with my friend and business partner, author Nancy Blanton. Virtuoso Tours has teamed with Nancy to explore the Emerald Isle, visiting many of the sites described in Blanton’s luscious 17th-century historical fiction. Pubs? Castles? Ruins? It’s all there — and brought to life by a premiere story-teller.

We all know that an epic trip of a lifetime takes a little advance planning so please share the opportunity with your friends.

Virtuoso has created a spectacular itinerary . Click here BLANTON Ireland TOUR for full details. And, to prepare, you can start to get to know Nancy and her spectacular 17th-century Irish historical fiction.

 

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