Category Archives: Courage

I am a Success when I…

Summer Clouds © Mary Alice Long

…notice the graces that appear when I need them most. 

…dare to add one word, one phrase, one sentence to my memoir draft.

…begin to write a letter to my memoir project followers.

…read one page of the novel I have been wanting to read for 3 months.

…pick up one piece of clothing, paper, or a treasure and give, donate, or throw it away.

I am a Success

…when I say one kind, loving word to Michael when I am angry with cancer’s effects on our life together.

…when I take the time to prepare nutritious meals, get enough sleep, exercise, and go on regular play dates for self-care.

…when I reach out to to someone who needs support.

…when I take the time to document the Beauty that is all around me.

Love that Color!

I am a Success

…when I write a story and share it on Medium and on other social media platforms

…when I keep trying even when all the evidence says, no way!

…when I say what I have to say without concern for what others may think of me.

…when I can shift my perspective just enough to let someone else in.

Mary Alice Long, PhD is a play-based, depth-oriented coach, writer, and artist who practices and teaches the ‘Art of Playing in the Everyday’.

Personal Story, Birth, and the Real Deal We Call Life

After years of writing my personal narrative, many deep, interwoven conversations, visual journaling, and performance…in less than a week…

I will say his name * meet him in-person * hold him in my arms.

January 23, 2017, on what would have been my mom’s 95th birthday, William called me. He told me how scared he was to leave a voice message asking me to call him. He asked me about his story, how he came to be.

Today I booked a flight to visit William in-person. Next week we will meet for the first time. He’s leaving the hospital after undergoing major surgery Monday evening. William’s cancer has moved from his skin, to his lungs, and now to his brain.

The phone rings and William says, They got it all.

He is hopeful and I am expectant once again.

The thing is, he is real to me now. For years, I have been using the phrase, my surrogate son. What a relief to be able to say his name, William, and know him as a person who loves to watch sports, wants to find work as a sports journalist, hike hundreds of trails.

Over the next few days, I will be gathering some of my journals, photos, and other treasures so that I can share them with William when we visit next week. Poems, memoir writing, research from my doctoral dissertation on surrogacy, performance-storytelling.

The first time we meet

Just making the reservations for my shuttle to the airport and flights was a struggle. Crying at the bank, at the pharmacy while trying to get through to the pharmacy clerk who is holding Michael’s medications post-stoke for ransom! Crying in the art studio while collaborating on a flyer for our fundraiser. I am tripping and almost fell yesterday because I have so much in my head and forgot about my feet. I keep reminding myself to ground. I’m wondering if I should rent a car but I am also concerned that I won’t be as focused as usual while driving the Los Angeles freeways.

Feeling the immediacy of the moment. I am grateful for the real deal, live life to the fullest!

I invite you to check in frequently here and on the Play=Peace blog.

Read the follow-up story Sit Back and Enjoy the Trip

Stepping Stones

I believe that everything in life can be approached playfully.

Approaching life as a playful journey helps me to keep moving ahead especially when life is filled with major challenges or what my husband calls, anything that comes from left field (or the unexpected).

Do you see your life as an adventure that sets you on center stage creating positive change for yourself and others?

Visualize yourself walking down a path lined with stepping stones. At first, you find yourself in a garden filled with spring flowers. As you continue you find yourself at the top of a set of stairs. You stop for a minute to catch your breath and then you take one of many steps down the stone stairs. At the bottom of the stairs you see a large double, wooden door to your right. The door has antique handles. You step forward and open the door. Once inside you walk forward and see another passage to your left that takes you to a large stone-walled room. In the middle of the room there is a desk with a large, high-backed chair just right for you to sit in and write. You walk around the desk and sit in the chair. You look up and find that someone is approaching you.

Who is approaching?

How do you feel as you sit in the chair?

What are the stumbling blocks that have kept you from what you desire?

What steps can you take to move forward as a writer, as a playful spirit, as a creator?

 

 

 

The Gift of Your Unique Voice

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter. ~ Martin Luther King

Today I am finding it difficult to get to the point where I can dive in and engage in my writing practice. Often I start writing in my journal and at some point my writing turns in a way that tells me I am in flow and going for it.  I can feel the difference between the start of writing and a deepening in the way my pen feels in my hand pressed to paper or how my fingers fly across the keyboard.

Since that flow is not happening right now I think I will approach my writing counter-intuitively.

What if I don’t care about creating meaning for others as a writer?

What if I am only sharing my writing for ego’s sake and don’t see any higher purpose in the words I scribble or type on the page?


I’m struggling to write and that struggle is even more so when I consider writing without regard to the call I feel as a writer and artist to help others on their playful, individuation journeys.

The secret is to release, start over again and again, and give voice to what matters.

Some writing prompts to consider using:

When I release I…

I am struggling to …

When I stay with my writing (creative) practice I…

My unique voice in the world is…

Don’t Hold Back, Write About What You Feel

Each moment brings an opportunity for play so why not playfully write in those moments that string into minutes.. and then hours…I had a journal with a key to lock my journal as a girl and I loved putting pen to paper and writing even then. As a child, I got the message that my brothers and sister were not suppose to make a sound at home so as not to disturb my dad. As a result I didn’t feel heard and listened to…writing gives me the opportunity to express myself. One of many art-forms I use to play and create with..

Louise DeSalvo’s quote, Repressing our Stories Can Harm Us, sent me to Google to look up repression, to revisit the word and attitude,

Google says, repression is ‘the action of subduing someone or something by force’. Re-visiting assumptions is valuable…I’m taken by the word ‘force’ in this definition of repression.

  • Am I using force to hold back my stories?
  • Do I forcefully stop myself and others from sharing theirs?

Do you believe in writing as a way of healing?  I sure do..

Writing has been instrumental in helping me to integrate my dreams and experiences in a way that transformed my life. In my 30s and during the time that I offered to be a surrogate mother for my psychotherapist I often said, ‘oh, whatever you want‘ when asked what I preferred in any given situation. I most often placated the other person to avoid conflict or criticism.

I had very little sense of boundaries and attracted people into my life who were more than willing to take advantage of my leanings. (my psychotherapist being one of the willing takers).

The woman I was at the time of my surrogate pregnancy and that same woman today in my 60s are very different.

When I write and speak about learning ‘the art of playing in the everyday’ its more about the approach and practice than it is about the form play takes. When I or anyone else brings a child’s wonder and curiosity to any experience play happens. Writing about my dreams and experience has brought a life filled with playfulness and creativity. Laughter and joy.

After writing in my journals and continuously focusing on the art of writing for many years,  I have found that I am beginning to write and not hold back.

As Betsy Wetzig, my friend and collaborator, wrote me after witnessing one of my memoir project performances and reading my writing over a period of time:

I now have a deeper understanding of how playfulness can be a medium of understanding…. for one thing it can help us deal with the “scaries” as it lets us interact with ourselves.

There is value in writing about our personal experiences and what we feel. what is real.

  • Don’t hold back.
  • Be open.
  • Be courageous.

 

 

 

I WRITE (CREATE) WHEN I AM BUSY, TEARY-EYED, JOYFUL, OR OTHERWISE ENGAGED

I am finding that I can write just about anywhere and under any circumstance when I embrace imperfection.

There are times in my life when I haven’t written in my journal.

One of the longest periods of time of not writing was during my surrogate pregnancy.

Two years after the giving birth and relinquishing my newborn to his adoptive mom and dad, I began to record my dreams, I also started to write daily in my journal. I’ve been writing ever since and have stacks of journals in my play studio that I go back to again and again for reflection and inspiration.

Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are and why we’re here. ~Sue Monk Kidd

I spoke to my surrogate son, Bobby, just a few weeks ago. He told me during our two-hour call that at an early age he realized that he looked very different than his parents. He asked about his beginnings. He told me, they just kept putting me off.

As our phone call was coming to a close, Bobby said, now that I know my story I have something I can tell people about who I am.

I asked Bobby if he ever writes in a journal. He said he hadn’t written since graduating from university with a degree in journalism. I suggested that he consider writing again saying, now that you know more about your beginnings you have a story to remember and to share with others.

It took a great deal of courage for Bobby to call me. All his adoptive mom and dad had told him up til the time of our call was, her name is Mary.

Bobby’s courage en-courages me to write imperfectly. To write about who I am becoming and the life experiences I am called to share.

 

Memoir Project: Dusting Myself Off, Putting my High Boots on & Going Back In!

After a lot of procrastination I have published three excerpts from my memoir in revision. I’ve also shared several writer’s notes over the last few days. You can find Memoir Project entries HERE and a couple Writer’s Notes HERE

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I had full intentions this morning to continue to write and revise my memoir’s manuscript this morning but I was stopped in my tracks by an event yesterday that kept me awake last night. It all started with:

You Should Have…

After tossing and turning in bed and making every effort to disavow what is roaming around inside of me I decided to put my high boots on and step back Into the arena. The arena where I bring my vulnerability and courage.

Vulnerability is the most accurate measure of courage. ~Brene Brown

I realized this morning as I sipped my coffee that I have been in that same arena immeasurable times in my life and that over the last few days I have been standing naked and left my armor behind. 

I’m showing up in a big way.

and so are all of my anxieties and concern about being killed on the field as I share my story and who I am. The real deal with no armor to shield me.

Yesterday I stepped out and was hit by the the same criticisms and shame that have kept me from writing and sharing what I am creating over the course of my lifetime. I asked myself this morning,

How is this critic similar to other critics that have voiced their disapproval of how I look, act, what I do, who I am??

I came across a photo of Mary Alice (circa 1954). I am just over a year old, standing with my Easter bonnet, dress, and coat. Looking ahead in a focused way. Even then I had a sense of who I am suppose to be and started to give away the parts of myself that didn’t fit that ideal.

image

Today I’m breathing deeply in a fetal position on the floor, dusting myself off, and continuing to create and share. On this Autumnal Equinox I feel like I am falling, breaking down. As I continue to play and create my life and life’s work I give myself permission to stay home for stretches of time and also to explore outside the edges of my experience.

I will continue to create and share here, on the Play=Peace blog, and on Medium knowing that as, Brene Brown, says,

if you step into the arena, you’re going to get your ass kicked

Every one of you has a Critic’s seat reserved in that same arena. See you there. Will you be fully armored or nakedly sharing your vulnerability and gifts with us all?